ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | One Very, Very Last Chance

One Very, Very Last Chance

24 August 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Over the years Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres has been accredited with having made major political and diplomatic mistakes.  The one most recently coming to mind took place after the first series of terror attacks during the 1996 general elections.  In late February the #18 bus was blown up in Jerusalem and a bus stop was attacked.  Peres decided to depend on the Palestinian Authority to arrest the perpetrators putting them to the test to see if they would ensure security for the average Israeli.  A week later the #18 bus was bombed once again and the horrific Purim massacre in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center shook the country.  Only then did he give the orders to the security forces to crush the terrorists.

By then even the PA helped out and order was restored.  But his ratings in the polls dropped furiously, the Hizbollah exploited his weakness and intensified attacks on the border with Lebanon and Israel retaliated in the Grapes of Wrath Operation, causing him to lose a fair amount of support among Israel’s Arabs.  In the end he lost the elections to the unknown Likud leader, Benyamin Netanyahu.  He gave Chairman Yasir Arafat and the PA one too many chances to root out terrorism.

The Right had a field day.  Peres was seen as temporarily abdicating responsibility for Israel’s security trading it off for a continuation of the “peace process” with the Palestinians.  Much of the center agreed and Labor found itself in the opposition.

But the Right owes Peres a belated apology.  Due to whatever pressures (most likely American) Israel has not responded in the expected manner to Tuesday’s Jerusalem bus bombing, except for the targeted removal of a few terrorists and sseveral arrests.  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threatens a massive operation to destroy terrorism while the PA’s Internal Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan is pleading for one more very last chance to begin to uproot terror.  He even reported blocking up three tunnels smuggling weapons in from the Sinai to Rafiah in the Gaza Strip.  IDF Chief of Staff Ya’alon called such actions “peripheral,” yet the right of center government continues to bide its time.

Despite all the verbiage spewed by the Bush administration about giving Israel a free hand to hunt down terrorists wherever they may be, the government is apparently waiting for the next major terror attack to prove Dahlan and his prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas have failed.  Another 20 – 25 dead Jews and “it will be proven” the Palestinians are not battling the terror scourge.  Israeli will take massive action and PA Chairman Arafat may even get exiled (or so goes the threat).

Why wait for the next major attack?  Everyone knows one will get through since 5% of all terror actions succeed and with time there will be a bus bomber.  Such tactical restraint is politically and diplomatically expedient.  In 1996 Peres scored a lot of points with the West and the foreign media.

The real question is whether what Peres did was ethical and moral and whether he had the right to show restraint under such circumstances.  Whatever the answer, Sharon and his government must be judged by the same yardstick.