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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Stop Terror at Its Source

At OpinionJournal.com, historian Michael Oren suggests that Israel should go back to targeted killings of Palestinian terrorist leaders.

Hat Tip: Gershon in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York
Yet even those Israelis most in favor of the Gaza pullout understood that many Palestinians would interpret the move as a strategic retreat and a victory for Hamas and al-Aqsa terror. "We shot at the Jews and they fled Gaza," they would say, "so let's keep shooting and they'll abandon Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem." Israel could have refuted that claim by responding immediately and massively to every infiltration and to every rocket fired, irrespective of whether the attacks caused Israeli casualties. Gaza is now a de facto independent state, Israel should have declared, and like any other state it must bear the consequences of its aggression.

But Israel did none of this. On the contrary, infiltrations and rocket strikes began almost the day after the Gaza disengagement. The primary target was Sderot, a working-class town in the western Negev populated mostly by long-settled immigrants from North Africa and more recent arrivals from Russia. Israel responded with missile attacks aimed at eliminating the Palestinian rocket crews and destroying the Qassam factories. But the crews were too elusive and the factories too readily rebuilt.

The attacks against Sderot and other border towns intensified--several Qassams struck Askhelon, Israel's major industrial city in the south--and the Palestinians elected a Hamas government sworn to escalate the violence. Israel retaliated by blasting the Qassam launching areas with artillery fire, but the barrages did little but churn up dirt and accidentally hit civilians. The Jewish state, from a Palestinian perspective, seemed helpless.

Israel's impotence was the product of several factors, firstly Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's reluctance to reoccupy Gaza so soon after evacuating it. Then came Mr. Sharon's stroke and the Israeli elections, during which, traditionally, Israel refrains from staging large-scale operations. Finally, Ehud Olmert succeeded in cobbling together a left-of-center coalition that pledged to proceed with the unilateral disengagement from the territories (or, as it is now called, convergence), but largely abandoned Mr. Sharon's hard-hitting antiterror tactics.
Read it all.

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