editorial: don't stop fighting terror

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Apr. 30, 2003
    Editorial: Don't stop fighting terror

    Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas walked into the meeting of Palestinian legislature together, sat next to each other, and were otherwise as inseparable as their long histories as comrades in arms. Now the latter, known as Abu Mazen, has been forced on the former as prime minister, a powerless position in most Arab regimes.

    The international community, including the United States, has accepted the notion that Abbas should be given a chance. He has, after all, for some time been calling amorphously for an end to the "military" attacks against Israel, on the grounds that they have become counterproductive.

    The order of the day has become to help Abbas in his power struggle with Arafat, so that Abbas can end the Palestinian offensive that has taken so many Israeli and Palestinian lives with so little result. But the drive to "help Abu Mazen" only makes sense if that help will produce a positive result, rather than wasting further time and lives on propping up what is essentially a facade for real change.

    Let us work backwards for a moment from the goal, and see if Abbas's appointment fits the goal. The immediate goal, Israel and the international community generally agree, is either that all Palestinian organizations end their terror offensive on their own, or the Palestinian Authority forces and end to terrorism against Israel.

    Let's further take the Hamas and Islamic Jihad at their word that they will not voluntarily lay down their arms, let alone give them into to the Palestinian Authority. Why should they? Neither Arafat, nor Abbas, nor Muhammad Dahlan, who some think might implement a crackdown, have given any indication that they intend to confront Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or even Fatah (which took responsibility for the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv yesterday morning) by force.

    On the contrary, the widespread expectation is Abbas and Dahlan plan to reopen the failed inter-Palestinian talks that began in Cairo. It seems unlikely that such talks will yield any agreement, but if they did, it would be to suspend suicide bombings within Israel proper while continuing terrorist attacks beyond the Green Line. Obviously, no diplomatic process can begin while such attacks continue. Further, even if the terror ceased, all the terrorist organizations would remain armed and intact, waiting for the "cease fire" to fall apart.

    There is a reason that even the "best case" scenarios under the circumstance turn out to be dead ends. Call it the Gorbachev or Khatami syndrome.

    Just before the Soviet Union collapsed, Mikhail Gorbachev was hailed as a great reformer who must be helped. In retrospect, it is clear that Gorbachev was trying to save the system, not destroy it, that the system was unreformable, and that only after complete collapse could real change begin.

    In Iran, Mohammad Khatami was also hailed as a reformer, and the West was thrilled by his talk of a "dialogue of civilizations." After years of experience, it is now clear that Khatami supports Iran's terrorist foreign policy and, despite his popularity and title of "president," that domestically he is powerless to implement real reform, and that the only solution in Iran is regime change.

    Another example, from a different angle, is Iraq, where even after Saddam has lost power, the lack of proof that he is dead and gone could complicate the formation of an new constructive Iraqi government.

    The point of all these examples is that in dictatorships, particularly those long dominated by a single, untouchable leader, half-way regime changes don't real exist and certainly don't work.

    So let's be generous and say this is a transition period to real, full regime change. What's the problem with that?

    The problem is that this transition period, assuming it is one, will not be benign, but a period of continuing and perhaps increased terror.

    Over seven days during the recent Passover holiday, seven suicide bombers attempted attacks including the one who did blow up in Kfar Sava train station, killing the security guard who stopped him. Yesterday's suicide bombing at a Tel Aviv night spot killed three and wounded 26.

    Further, Israel is now under pressure to "help Abu Mazen," which is taken to mean easing up on its military operations. If Israel unilaterally eases up on its constant pursuit of terrorists, the result will be to give those much depleted organizations a chance to recover, as IDF [Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon] just told a Knesset committee. Yaalon, incidentally, also said this would be the result if Hamas and Islamic Jihad did agree to a temporary cease fire.

    The objective of Israel and the US, therefore, should not be to "help Abu Mazen," unless what is meant by that is to hold him to the only effective standard, which is the complete dismantling of all terrorist organizations.

    In the meantime, the US has no moral right to request, nor Israel to accede, to any diminution in the IDF campaign to protect Israelis from Palestinian terrorism.

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