THE ISRAELI-ARAB CONFLICT & PROSPECTS FOR MIDEAST PEACE:
Eradication of the Terrorists Prior to Diplomacy
By Dr. Michael Rubin
Some U.S. politicians sought to capitalize on the latest violence for political gain. Senator Hillary Clinton blamed the Bush administration for the outburst of violence.
Still, the Clinton administration trusted Arafat as a partner far longer than the evidence warranted. They were not alone. Often in Washington, politicians become so wedded to the success of their policy initiatives, that they ignore the reality of its failure.
The Bush administration was not as willing to accept Yasser Arafat's duplicity. While, in December, 2001, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell held out hope that Arafat's call to end armed struggle against Israel was sincere, his decision to withhold judgment was wise. As Arafat won European praise for his ceasefire, Iranian and Hezbollah officials were loading 50 tons of weaponry onto the Karine-A, destination: Gaza. Throughout the Intifada, Arafat's diplomacy was insincere. He, like other terrorists and rogue leaders, ran to diplomats and the United Nations when he feared retaliation, the playground equivalent of sucker-punching a classmate when the teacher's back is turned, and then crying for intercession as the victim fights back.
Arafat and many Hamas leaders paid the price for their strategy: It was not diplomacy which ended the Intifada. Rather, the U.S. and Israeli quarantine of Arafat and Israel's targeted assassination campaign against other terrorist leaders created accountability and broke the back of the terrorist campaign.
It was at this point, though, that both Ariel Sharon and George Bush snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Politicians should never reward violence and non-compliance. The Second Intifada which followed Ehud Barak's May, 2000, withdrawal from southern Lebanon made the violence which engulfed Gaza after Sharon's unilateral disengagement predictable. Bush's mistake was rewarding Iran's noncompliance. Just days after he reversed his policy and rewarded Iran, Iranian Supreme Leader ridiculed U.S. weakness. On June 4, 2006, he declared:
The problem with the West's policy in the Middle East is not lack of diplomacy, but rather failure to allow retaliatory violence and impose accountability. During the Clinton years, terrorists believed they could strike U.S. interests with near impunity. In 1996, Clinton failed to respond to Iranian planning, training, and supply for the terrorists which struck the Khobar towers; in 1998, U.S. retaliation in response to al-Qa'ida's East Africa Embassy bombings was weak-wristed; in 2000, the response to the U.S.S. Cole bombing was nonexistent. Israel, too, suffered from the effects of erosion of its deterrence.
Not only is vengeance against terrorism sometimes necessary, but it is more likely to bring peace if it is disproportionate. The Bush administration's response to the 9-11 terrorist attacks was not to bring down a couple buildings in Kabul or Qandahar, nor shoot missiles at empty buildings or training camps, but rather to launch war on al-Qa'ida and bring the Taliban government to its knees.
For the West, moral equivalency is also a handicap. True, terrorists may also argue that the way to alter Western policy is through violence. But that is all the more reason why the West must ensure its own victory first.
When academics and commentators decry disproportionate force as an obstacle to peace, they replace analysis with platitude. Lasting peace is seldom made between equals, but rather between strong and weak. The United States ended World War II precisely because it was willing to use disproportionate force. In doing so, it allowed Japan to rebuild and thrive. England and France did not pull back from Germany and allow the Nazi regime to re-arm and try again. Wars are fought until they are won. Among Israel's neighbors, only Egypt and Jordan have accepted peace with the Jewish state. In 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat sought peace only after a disastrous attempt at war. King Hussein of Jordan also accepted peace — not formal at first — after understanding the price of war. Negotiations between Jerusalem, Cairo, and Amman succeeded because they accepted that violence could not achieve their aims, an epiphany still lost upon many in the Arab world and many in Iran. The irony of the Oslo Accords was that those that fought the First Intifada were not those handed the reins of leadership. Both U.S. and Israeli leaders enabled the Tunisia-based faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization to take control. Arafat viewed his Chairmanship over the Palestinian Authority as an entitlement, without understanding his responsibility.
Diplomacy that preserves a status quo in which terrorists win concession through violence ensures future bloodshed. Hezbollah is not a movement whose existence diplomats should intercede to preserve. While world leaders condemned Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and threats to eradicate Israel from the map, they ignore that, on April 9, 2000, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared:
Nasrallah has made his aims clear. That anyone would intercede to enable someone whose goal is genocide to continue is irresponsible, if not hateful. Nasrallah later provided an answer to those "progressives" tempted to argue the problem to be Israel's existence. To the Hezbollah leader, Israel is just one part of the fight. On October 22, 2002, Hassan Nasrallah told Lebanon's Daily Star, "If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them world wide."
There will be a role for diplomacy in the Middle East, but it will only be successful if it commences both after the eradication of Hezbollah and Hamas, and after their paymasters pay a terrible cost for their support. This does not mean that Israel is without blame. Lebanese politicians may have been cowardly in their failure to exert sovereignty following Israel's May, 2000, withdrawal from southern Lebanon. The U.S. State Department and European foreign ministries were negligent in their failure to keep up the pressure on Hezbollah, Damascus, and Tehran following the Cedar Revolution. But there will never be peace if Syria and Iran are allowed to use Lebanon as a proxy battlefield, safe and secure in the knowledge that they will not pay directly. If the peace is the aim, it is imperative to punish the Syrian and Iranian leadership. Most Lebanese are victims, too.
The Israeli-Arab Conflict
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors
The Middle East & the Problem of Syria
The Middle East & the Problem of Iran
The Middle East & the Problem of Iraq
Page Two Page One
The Problem of Rogue States:
Iraq as a Case History
National Strategy for Victory in Iraq
Islamism & Jihadism -- Radical Islam & Islamic Terrorism
Page Three Page Two Page One
War & Peace in the Real World
Page Two Page One
Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.
Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization
Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies
U.S. National Security Strategy
Dr. Michael Rubin, a Ph.D. in History (Yale University) and a specialist in Middle Eastern politics, Islamic culture and Islamist ideology, is Editor of the Middle East Quarterly and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Dr Rubin is author of Into the Shadows: Radical Vigilantes in Khatami's Iran (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001) and is co-author, with Dr. Patrick Clawson, of Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Dr. Rubin served as political advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad (2003-2004); staff advisor on Iran and Iraq in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense (2002-2004); visiting lecturer in the Departments of History and International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2001-2002); visiting lecturer at the Universities of Sulaymani, Salahuddin, and Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan (2000-2001); Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1999-2000); and visiting lecturer in the Department of History at Yale University (1999-2000). He has been a fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, the Leonard Davis Institute at Hebrew University, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.
The foregoing article by Dr Rubin was originally published in National Review Online, July 17, 2006, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum.
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