Terror attacks must exact a price tag; regrettably, that’s the logic of the Middle East. I make this point not as result of desire for blind revenge for the Itamar massacre. Rather, I write based on political realism.
In recent years, the term “price tag” has become anathema as result of the acts of a few nutcases – criminals who harmed innocents in the name of ideology and false interpretation of religion. This is not the way to exact a price tag. The opposite is true: In a reality where boundaries are constantly tested, price tag acts must not be undertaken by radicals. Such activity is a political must, and as such must be undertaken under the state’s auspices.
Terror attacks are by definition violent acts against civilians in the aims of securing political objectives. This means that terrorism has an orderly logic of cost-benefit considerations. In other words, when a terrorist sets out to massacre children, when a preacher at a mosque calls for the murder of Jews or when Palestinian leaders maintain their silence in the face of incitement, they weigh the price of the terror attack.
Researchers refer to it as cumulative deterrence. Your past actions – that is, your response to the violence and the price tag you set – will determine the rival’s conduct in the future.
At the start of the second Intifada, when Israel’s streets were flooded by blood courtesy of Yasser Arafat’s emissaries, peace zealots argued that there is no other choice. We must show restraint and engage in talks while sustaining terror. The cliché that “restraint is power” reigned supreme, until Operation Defensive Shield arrived and made it clear that the ongoing restraint was merely blindness that boosted the number of casualties.
Despite the decisive declarations that we had no chance, the combination that minimized suicide terrorism included determined security operations, political aggressiveness, and exacting a price; a price tag.
Maintaining the victory
Today we can fully declare that the Palestinians were defeated on the battlefield, as opposed to the liberal rewriting of reality, when their critical mass – that is, most terror infrastructure – was eliminated. Later they were defeated after reaching the conclusion that the cost of terror is higher than is benefit. This is a temporary victory that must be maintained – but it’s a victory nonetheless.
The price tag exacted by Israel was the destruction of the Palestinian Authority’s achievements from the 1990s. It was a heavy price, but not as dear as the hundreds of lives that were taken.
Yet after the bloody lessons of the past decades, we see a murderous attack that tests these boundaries after a long period of deterrence. And again we are seeing those who pull out the old clichés about restraint – as if we never went through this before. The explanation provided is that we must be careful not to harm the peace treaty that is supposedly right around the corner.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, before we again show caution and honor peace, we better safeguard the dignity of life, and to that end Israel requires a price tag; that is, deterrence.
How do we do it? On the tactical level, we can do it by aggressively punishing the attackers. Demolishing terrorist homes, resumption of roadblock activity and searches at villages where attackers came from (that’s important for intelligence purposes, and will make the price clear to anyone who wishes to perpetrate further attacks.) We should also revoke needles privileges enjoyed by the role models, prisoners held in Israeli jails.
On the strategic level, we should change realities on the ground. Massive construction in the large settlement blocs (which in my view is vital at all times) is one example. And what about the implications for the peace agreement, you ask? It shall survive, just like it did when we showed restraint.
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