By Binyamin Netanyahu
June, 04 2001
Friday night's heinous murder of 19 young boys and girls, the worst atrocity in the wave of terror that has engulfed Israel for eight months, has torn our nation's heart asunder and left many Israelis bereft of hope that this wanton bloodshed will end.
We are told that there is no way to stop Palestinian terror and no military solution to the current conflict. I vehemently disagree. Palestinian terror can and will be stopped by restoring Israel's deterrent strength and by using that strength when necessary.
Many years before we entered into diplomatic negotiations with Egypt and Jordan, we used our military forces to put an end to terrorism emanating from those states. But one need not go back decades to see that terror can be defeated.
When my government came to power in 1996, the Jewish state had witnessed horrific carnage over the preceding months, including a spate of exploding buses and suicide bombings that left scores dead and hundreds wounded. Three years later, when my government left office, it handed over a tranquil Israel whose citizens shared a sense of personal security.
How were we able to restore security to the people of Israel? Did Yasser Arafat become a Zionist during my tenure as prime minister? Did my government offer him more generous concessions than the government that preceded or succeeded it? Of course not.
We restored security by restoring deterrence and by refusing to accept terrorism as an inevitable part of our daily lives and restored security by restoring deterrence. Arafat understood three things:
First, that I was prepared to use the full strength of the IDF against the Palestinian Authority to stop terror, even to the point of dismantling Arafat's regime. Second, that my government would uniformly support this policy. And third, that this policy would be implemented in the face of international pressure.
The danger that Arafat faced was made clear to him in our response to the riots that followed the opening of the Western Wall tunnel riots, which lasted only two days, and in our response to the three serious bombings that occurred during my tenure. Faced with the threat to his regime, Arafat arrested terrorists, reined in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and instructed his security services to prevent further attacks against our citizens.
Our restoration of Israel's deterrence led to a dramatic reduction of Palestinian terror, just as our forceful air actions against Lebanese infrastructure brought about a cessation of Katyusha rocket attacks that has lasted to this day. By abandoning this policy, the government that succeeded mine once again endangered the security of Israel's citizens.
By offerring outrageous concessions, by negotiating under fire, and by the ill-advised nature of its withdrawal from Lebanon, Ehud Barak's government implemented a policy of weakness that also marked the government that had signed the original Oslo Accords. The result was another wave of terror that has continued for eight months.
To restore that deterrence, we must now do three things:
First, Israel must be prepared to use any means necessary to stop the terror, even if that entails the end of the Palestinian Authority. Arafat does not care about the Palestinian people, but he certainly cares whether his own regime survives.
Second, the government must unite behind this policy, a policy supported by the overwhelming majority of the nation.
Third, Israel must explain to the international community that we are exercising our nation's most basic right to defend its citizens. The presence in Washington today of an administration strongly committed to fighting terrorism should make this task easier, and with a properly coordinated public relations effort, we will succeed at conveying this message. After all, if the US and Britain bombed Gaddafi's Libya over the bombing of a Berlin nightclub, Israel certainly has the right to take action after Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are bombed by Arafat's proxies.
Adopting these measures should stop the terror without having to dismantle the Palestinian Authority. But if Arafat doesn't get the message, his replacement surely will: Any Palestinian regime that terrorizes Israel will not survive.
The central premise behind Oslo - that we could forge a peace with the PLO because it had given up its intention to destroy Israel - was flawed. In its place, we must return to a peace based on the concept of deterrence: a strong Israel that is prepared to defend itself and use its power when necessary. This conception has protected Israel since its inception, stopped the conflict with two of our neighbors, and eventually enabled peace with them to become a reality.
Our nation stands at an historical crossroads. For the first time in decades, parts of the Arab world believe that it is possible to overpower the Jewish state. We must again convince them otherwise. Our willingness to accept the war of attrition that Arafat wishes to impose on us will further undermine our deterrence and draw us into a wider regional conflict. Just as we did in the recent past, I have no doubt that we can prevent this deterioration and stop the terrorist onslaught that Arafat has unleashed.
In the final analysis, the current conflict is a test of our national resolve. I have full confidence in the will of a people who over the centuries has overcome obstacles far greater than Arafat's corrupt junta.
(The writer is the former prime minister.)
©2001 - Jerusalem Post