November/December 2000
An Israeli tank advances near Beit Jala

No Longer a Weakling

By Daniel Pipes

(November 22-'00) - Israel has been taking it on the chin from the Palestinians. It offers them an incredibly generous package at Camp David in July; the Palestinians (and Israeli Arabs) reward it in October with the worst-ever outbreak of violence.

Likewise, the IDF fights in a careful manner intended to return the Palestinians to the negotiating table (as opposed to defeating them); in reply, Palestinians respond with heightened violence (uniformed "policemen" are now shooting at the IDF).

Nor are the Palestinians the only ones to assault Israel:

* The UN Security Council thanks Israel for its "policy of restraint" limiting Palestinian casualties - even though this adds to the injuries and deaths of its own troops - with a resolution lambasting its "excessive use of force."

* The international media ignore Israel's absorbing a range of provocations almost without retaliation (the abduction of soldiers to Lebanon, the lynching of soldiers in Ramallah, the desecration of Joseph's Tomb) and instead vilify it.

* Governments around the world respond to hundreds of incidents of violence against Jews and Jewish institutions on six continents, carried out almost entirely by Moslems, with near-silence.

Why this barrage of aggression and unfair treatment, far worse than Israel has experienced in decades?

Here's my answer: The world despises a weakling and Israel is now reaping the bounty of the soft foreign policy in place since 1993.

Israeli policy toward the Palestinians over the past seven years has been to sign about one agreement a year and then hardly insist on implementation. Of course, this laxness did not go unnoticed by Palestinians, who took advantage of it routinely to break their promises.

With a record like this, how can Israel now demand the Palestinians fulfill their promises and expect anything but derision? After letting its enemies get away with so much for so long, its citizens now wonder if they have become the mat on which anyone can trample.

Accepting this analysis means that tamping down Palestinian violence - as well as the Arab and Moslem saber-rattling, the international finger-wagging, and global violence against Jews - requires Israel to shed its weakling image.

Trouble is, the longer the Palestinians get away with their criminal misbehavior, the more heavy-handed must Israel's response be. In 1993, normal protection of Israel's rights would have sufficed. Today, a crackdown is needed. It might include several steps:

* Assert political goals. These days, Israeli policy aims only at a return to the bargaining table. It would do well to emulate the Palestinians, who have a well-articulated set of goals (end Israeli occupation, establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital). If it did, Israeli equivalents would include a complete end to violence by Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, and the Arab and Moslem states.

* Enforce agreements already signed. At present, the government asks only for a "drastic" drop in violence before returning to the bargaining table. (And the Likud wants hardly more, demanding merely a complete cessation of hostilities.) Better would be to demand complete implementation of all agreements reached since 1993 before even considering another round of negotiations.

* Choose the time and place of confrontations. If Palestinians insist on continuing the violence, stop letting them decide its terms. Actively choose the who, when, where, and how favoring Israel's interests.

* Don't worry about world opinion. Israel is so unfairly treated in this regard, it has little left to lose. Anyway, a strong Israel criticized for defending itself is far better off than a weak Israel no less criticized when it fails to defend its interests.

Such moves by a self-assertive Israel would go far to heighten the country's morale while boosting its international standing.

©Jerusalem Post

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