In a recent article entitled "Making the enemy think twice" Guy Bechor bewails the apparent impotence of the Israeli government in dealing with the unrelenting Palestinian violence against Israel.
Although Bechor makes some valid points in his piece, aptly pointing out that to date past Israeli policies have been characterized by "passiveness, perpetuation of the status quo, lack of initiative, and constant fear" rather than the necessary "activism, initiative, fearlessness, and leadership," what he advocated as a remedy for terminating Palestinian attacks on Israel is unfortunately "too little too late". The essence of Bechor's suggestion is to resurrect Israel's flagging deterrent posture, by establishing an escalating punitive price tag, so that the penalty for every hostile act will be known.
Prime facie, the proposal is not totally unconvincing. However, a brief analysis of the basic arithmetic of the Israeli-Arab conflict and its history will quickly underscore that the kind of measures proposed by Bechor will be sadly ineffectual in halting Palestinian violence.
During Israel's War of Independence, the newly founded Jewish nation, infused with a resolute sense of purpose, was not swayed from its aspiration to achieve its political objective - despite the tremendous casualties the pursuit of this aspiration demanded of it. Thus, in spite of the fact that the Jewish population numbered barely 600,000, even the terrible loss of 6,000 dead did not deter it from pursuing its goal.
Accordingly, under the eminently plausible assumption that the Jewish sensitivity to loss of life then was not less than Palestinian sensitivity is today, there is little reason to suppose that the Palestinians, clearly infused with a resolute sense of purpose, will be deterred from endeavoring to attain their national goal - even at the cost of great suffering. Indeed, if the Palestinians are prepared to endure the same rate of casualties that Israelis were prepared to absorb in the 1940s, even inflicting losses of 30,000 dead on them will not make them give up their armed struggle against Israel. So were the IDF to exact costs far in excess of those proposed by Bechor, the chances are that they would still be ineffectual in quelling Palestinian violence.
This comparison underscores the utter futility of limited Israeli military measures of any kind. It shows quite unequivocally that targeted assassinations, demolition of houses, and temporary invasions of Palestinian administered territories will never induce the Palestinian to lay down their arms - even if Israel were to escalate these types of measures to levels presently undreamed of.
New echelon of leaders needed
This, however, does not mean that Israel has no option but to go back to the negotiating table, and to chase after the illusory mirage of a “political solution.” After all, since October 2000, following Palestinian rejection of the far-reaching and reckless concessionary offers made by the Barak government, after the disastrous debacle of disengagement, and after the uncompromising insistence on the Palestinian “right of return,” it has become undeniably clear to the Israeli public (apart from some eccentric and fanatical left wing fringe-groups) that what fuels the fires of Arab-Israeli conflict is not the lack of Palestinian self-determination but the existence of Jewish self-determination – no matter what the territorial frontiers may be.
Accordingly, if on the one hand the Palestinians cannot be induced to give up their violence by any reasonably conceivable concessions, and on the other hand they cannot be induced to do so by the threat of any reasonably conceivable punitive measures, there appear to be only two ways to bring the fighting to an end. The one involves total capitulation to Palestinian demands and unmitigated acceptance of all their claims. The significance of this option is the complete renouncement of the Zionist ideal of a sovereign Jewish state for the people of Israel in the Land of Israel. For it is virtually indisputable that the adoption of this course would result in a state that would very quickly find itself swallowed up in the social, economic and political environment that prevails in the region, and would soon become indistinguishable from any other of the surrounding states in the “precinct.”
The second alternative involves acknowledging the fact that Israel has no acceptable way to diminish the Palestinian will to attack it, and thus must eliminate the Palestinian ability to do so – by speedy and decisive conquest of the areas transferred to Palestinian control, the dismantling of all the political and military organizations and infrastructures established since the Oslo Agreements, and the reinstatement of effective Israeli sovereign rule from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
This is undoubtedly a course of action fraught with many hazards. Its implementation requires meeting many daunting challenges and overcoming many serious obstacles that cannot be lightly dismissed. It will call for huge diplomatic and political efforts, and place the national leadership under the most stringent of tests – tests that are probably well beyond the mettle of the present political cadre masquerading as "leaders." It will require the Jewish people to generate from within it a new echelon of leaders made of sterner stuff, leadership with greater intellectual prowess, greater national commitment, greater moral integrity, and greater political foresight.
It is not a question of whether this is possible or not. For if the Jews still desire to preserve their national independence and the political sovereignty of the Jewish nation-state, there is no other alternative.
This then is the cruel choice on the national agenda: The Jews can either capitulate to the Palestinian national movement - or conquer it. It is a choice that must be made urgently. Any belief in a more moderate, less radical option is no more than misguided self-delusion.