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by Yoram Ettinger



Palestinian terrorism has been fueled by the "Titanic/Ship of Fools" state-of-mind, which has afflicted Israel's leadership since the 1993 establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA):

Thus, Gaza, Judea and Samaria have become the largest terror base in the world, inflaming the Intifada of rocks and Molotov cocktails (until 1993) into a war of missiles and homicide-bombers, which threatens every Israeli.

It would take a drastic change of course to divert the Titanic away from the iceberg.


250 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists in the 15 years that preceded the PA. About 1,800 have been murdered during the 12 years since the establishment of the PA (equal, proportionally, to 90,000 Americans or to 30 "Twin Towers"!).

Until the PA was created, Israeli leaders demonstrated conviction in Israel's just cause and in the need to bear arms as a deterrent in the Middle East, which has not experienced inter-Arab peace since the 7th century. They had confidence in Israel's capability to withstand US pressure, to overcome the demographic threat and to eradicate Palestinian terrorism.

In contrast, since the founding of the PA, they have reflected unprecedented erosion of conviction and lack of confidence in Israel's capability to bear arms in the long run, and to defy the challenges of demography, terrorism and US pressure. Such a battle-fatigue is the result of the unprecedented post-1993 terrorism, while downplaying Israel's stronger-than-ever military, economy and demography (48% Jews west of the Jordan River in 1948 and 60% in 2005!), not to mention the improved global climate with the US, England, Spain, Australia and West Europe exposed to the wrath of Islamic violence.

The combination of a vigorous political option (negotiation) with a low-intensity military option -- practiced by Israel since 1993 -- is every terrorist's wet dream, but a nightmare for democratic societies. 12 years of the PA have proven that low-intensity warfare exacerbates terrorism, provides terrorists with stunning political and territorial gains, erodes Israel's posture of deterrence and wears down its leadership.

The attrition of Israel's leadership -- since 1993 -- has adrenalized Palestinian terrorists, who have been driven by the hope of dismantling the Jewish state. This hope must be extinguished by a determined, fierce military option, as demonstrated by Germany, Italy, Turkey, Peru, Egypt, Algeria, Sri Lanka, the US and other countries against the terrorism of Baader Meinhof, Red Brigades, PKK, Shining Path, Tamil Tigers, Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban and Ba'ath, etc.


A moderate response to a radical threat is strategically-flawed and morally-wrong.

Targeted killing has eliminated many Hamas leaders, but Hamas has gained in strength, because Israeli leaders have ignored the Texas colloquialism: "Fertilizing and watering wouldn't make the poison ivy a friendly flower, and targeted pruning would only strengthen its roots. The only way to neutralize the poison is by uprooting the poison ivy!"

Restraint in face of terrorism is not a moral or strategic virtue -- it is a symptom of suicidal weariness.

The track record of the past 12 years behooves Israel to drastically alter its war on Palestinian terrorism:

  1. Ending moral ambivalence (which dresses a terror-authority like a partner for peace) and undermining the legitimacy of that authority (PA) constitute a prerequisite for strategic clarity and for a victory on the battlefield.

  2. Uprooting hate-education from PA's kindergartens, elementary schools, universities, mosques and official media (which constitutes the manufacturing-line of homicide-bombers and reflects PA's strategy) is essential, if terror is to be disconnected from its life line.

  3. Swift, offensive, comprehensive and preventive war on the terrorists' own breeding ground, not a protracted war of attrition, targeted killing, limited military operations, defensive and reactive tactics. Flexing a disproportional military muscle would restore Israel's long term deterrence posture.

  4. Destruction of the political-ideological-financial infrastructure that feeds the fire of terrorism -- and bringing the enemy to submission -- rather than a series of ceasefires and coexistence with terrorism.

  5. Wars are not won by remote control (artillery, missiles, air force), but rather by controlling the ground and the people that breed terror.

  6. Disengaging Israel's military and secret service from Gaza (1994) and the towns of Judea and Samaria (1994-2002), and transferring control to the PA, added fuel to the fire of Palestinian terrorism. Reengaging the IDF and the Secret Service with the towns in Judea and Samaria (since 2003) has reduced terrorism by 90%! Control of terrorists' breeding ground significantly reduces their ability to plan, operate, incite, enlist, train, manufacture and smuggle terrorist hardware. It also upgrades Israel's capabilities of deterrence, intelligence-gathering, prevention and retaliation.

  7. The war on anti-Israel terrorism must not be subcontracted to the PA, Quartet, Egypt, US, Italian inspectors or Turkish security guards. Terrorism is not an object to complain about, but rather an object to be demolished, while displaying "zero tolerance" toward any potential expression of terrorism at its ebb.

  8. No additional accords should be concluded with an authority, which has become the role-model of systematic and murderous abrogation of all commitments made to Arabs, to the US and to Israel. One does not negotiate with terrorists; one eliminates terrorists, especially those whose inner philosophical truth is consistent with the destruction of one's own state.

  9. The Geneva Convention determines that "human shields" do not preclude the right of self-defense. It stipulates that the responsibility for civilian casualties is clearly at the door step of terrorists who abuse Palestinian civilians as "human shields".

  10. A country that allows terrorists to determine the course of its national agenda is doomed to oblivion.

A fatal Titanic-like crash of Israel will be averted only by a leadership that is prepared to dramatically change the course of the Jewish State away from the direction of Oslo-Hebron-Wye-Road Map-"Disengagement".

This change will entail a short-term (possibly steep) diplomatic and financial cost. However, it will accord the Jewish State a long-term critical and significant enhancement of security, economic and diplomatic fortunes, as was demonstrated against much rougher odds in 1948, 1967, 1981, etc.

Yoram Ettinger is an expert on US and the Middle East affairs; a consultant to cabinet members in Israel; a former Minister for Congressional Affairs at Israel's Embassy in Washington, DC; a former Consul General of Israel to Houston, TX; and a former Director of the Israel's Gov't Press Office.

To read other essays by Yoram Ettinger, go to, or See also Ettinger's "The case against disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria,"

This article was published January 5, 2006 by Ynet (Internet edition of Yedioth Achronot).


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