Should Israel's goal be to defeat the Palestinian Arab terrorists who are waging war against it? Or should Israelis be striving merely for a few days or weeks of quiet?
The answer would seem obvious, but at a recent meeting with a senior State Department official, I and other Jewish leaders were surprised and disappointed to discover that the State Department condemned Israel's July 31 pre-emptive strike against terrorists in Nablus, who were planning to carry out a massacre of Israeli Jews, as "excessive" and "provocative" because it "would not contribute to the goal of achieving quiet."
No country in the world, including the United States, would sit by idly and allow the massacre of its citizens. Indeed, the United States has never behaved in that fashion. For example, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the goal of America's response was not to achieve temporary "quiet," but to make sure that the aggressor would feel consequences so severe that the aggression would halt. And, of course, the United States has used much greater force than Israel in situations where Americans citizens were not in direct danger, including in Panama, Grenada and the Persian Gulf.
Israel's goal in fighting a war is not "quiet," but is to protect Israeli lives and the Israeli homeland. A few days of quiet might provide an impressive sound bite for publicity-hungry politicians, but it would not do Israel any real good. It would just mean a very slight delay until terrorism resumed.
Israel has every moral and legal right to use whatever force is necessary to defend the lives of its citizens. Secretary of State Powell himself has supported strong U.S. action to defend U.S. citizens and U.S. interests.
Powell's statements include:
America should enter fights with every bit of force available, or not at all." (Time, April 19, 2001)
Overwhelming U.S. force assures success at minimum risk to Americans in uniform." (Boston Globe, Jan. 19, 2001)
The State Department's passionate rhetoric about the two Arab youths who were inadvertently killed during Israel's July 31 counterterrorist action is especially ironic, considering the harm done to innocent civilians in operations directed by then-Gen. Powell himself. For example, he oversaw the December 1989 invasion of Panama, in which 25,000 troops were sent to capture a minor dictator suspected of drug trafficking. The action cost the lives of 23 American soldiers, 315 Panamanian soldiers and hundreds of Panamanian civilians. In addition, thousands of civilians were injured, and 10,000 were made refugees.
Israel has not used "full force" or "overwhelming force" -- to quote Powell's description of his recommended methods -- but soon it will have no choice but to do so. As of this writing, 138 Israelis have been murdered since September 2000, and the daily mortar attacks, shootings, and bombings have reached Israel's major cities. Israel will have to take serious military action to defeat the terrorists.
If the Bush administration is serious about its interest in peace in the Middle East, there are specific actions it can take to stop the terror before it leads to an all-out war:
Stop condemning Israel's counterterrorist actions. The condemnations lend encouragement to the terrorists.
Halt America's $100 million in annual aid to the Palestinian Arabs. Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Arabs must be made to see that there will be real consequences for Arafat's war against America's ally, Israel.
Put the Palestinian Authority on the official U.S. list of terrorist sponsors.
If Palestinian Arabs kill Americans, take concrete steps to bring the killers to justice -- including offering rewards for information leading to their capture, and issuing indictments so the suspects can be brought to trial in the United States.
Continue the administration's policy of refusing to invite Arafat to the White House so long as violence continues. This is the one positive action the administration has taken regarding Arafat, and it must be maintained. Inviting Arafat now would be rewarding violence.
There can be no peace until Israel has defeated Arafat and his terrorists. The United States should help Israel do so.