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The Cost of Uprooting Palestinian Terror

30 June 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

President Bush’s speech gave Israel a large diplomatic victory last week but the everyday reality of operation ‘Determination’ will have a much greater effect on Israel than American foreign policy pronouncements, at least in the long run.  There is a partial reserve call up (but smaller than in ‘Defensive Shield’) and the army is bogged down in the capture of the Palestinian West Bank cities.  Only the greatest skeptics could have imagined the Oslo Accords breaking down to the point that the IDF would be forced to reoccupy the entire West Bank as a result of unremitting Palestinian terrorism.

But it gets more complicated.  If the Palestinian Authority is no longer involved in civilian rule and the areas are reoccupied, Israel is responsible for the well being of the Palestinian civilian population.  According to the Israeli daily Ma’ariv such an occupation would cost up to $2 billion a year.  Until Oct. 2000 over 120,000 Palestinians worked in Israel compared to today’s 2,000. The per capita income has dropped to $1,100 per year (apparently including foreign aid), about one third of its previous level.  The Palestinian economy has collapsed, but not completely.

At the present the PA is still officially responsible, but should Israel remain in the cities for any length of time she will be held accountable by the international community for civilian well being.  Jerusalem cannot afford this on the financial or diplomatic front.

To apprehend terrorists and stop suicide bombers Israel must impose curfews and closures while occupying the Palestinian cities. At least in the short term, but this will become an unbearable burden and raises the question as to what is the alternative.  The half solution of night time curfews (and operations by the army) in under consideration to help the Palestinian economy limp by.  Such a move could be scuttled quickly by attacks against the military.  No doubt, Israel is in a quandary.

Some, especially Yossi Sarid of the left wing Meretz party, have suggested an international presence to replace the army in the West Bank and Gaza.  But such an idea is unacceptable to the Israeli leadership and public until terrorism is wiped out as none expects the international community will endanger itself to stop terrorism against the Jewish state.

Many speak of ‘political horizons’.  Terrorism must be eradicated before peaceful solutions can be considered.