ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | The IDF vs. the Defense Ministry: The Debate

The IDF vs. the Defense Ministry: The Debate

31 October 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The world media hype over the different tactical approaches being considered by Israel’s security forces in dealing with Palestinian terrorism has attained proportions beyond any expectations.  This is a three-year debate.  Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon wants to ease up a bit while the Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz wants to continue with hard line policies. The initial question is a simple one:  “How does one stop terrorism?”  The political solution was tried by Labor PM Barak when he offered to return virtually all the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian Authority and Yasir Arafat in July, 2000.  At Taba, 2001 he offered more and it too was rejected.

The military solution continues being tried, but that entails targeted removals of terrorists who hide among the civilian population.  When they are killed bystanders often suffer the consequences as Palestinian society is held hostage by their own terrorists.  Searches are implemented and road - blocks erected to catch terrorists and often succeed, yet lead to more understandable anger among Palestinians. 

Two months ago there was a “hudna” Islamic cease-fire and although not fully in agreement, the army (backed by the Sharon government) let up the pressure and Israel was rewarded with the #2 bus bombing in Jerusalem (21 killed, many ultra-orthodox children).  Israel was on the verge of handing over four Palestinian cities to PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan the next day, but the deal was cancelled.  Once again the political effort to stop terrorism failed.

Due to further bombings (Jerusalem, Tzrifin and the Haifa Maxim Restaurant) Israel  imposed extremely harsh restrictions on the Palestinians over the past month.  Attacks in Israel proper were reduced to almost zero.  But there is a price in Palestinian hatred and possible future attacks, especially when farmers suffer during the olive harvest.

Israel’s strategy of stopping Palestinian terrorism has not changed, the issue is the carrot and stick tactics of a political agreement vs. military intervention.  Israeli papers were the first to report the clash between the Chief of Staff and the Defense Minister and the foreign press had a field day as if the whole country was falling apart.  (In Israel we only manage to commit suicide on economic issues.)

But did the foreign press report the latest unconditional, unlimited (time wise) cease-fire request begged for by the militant Islamic Hamas?   Sheikh Yasin and the leadership are reported afraid to meet for over a month already for fear of helicopter gun ships and cannot communicate knowing Israel will pick off the transmissions.  The Palestinian population is not as ignorant as many would like to believe and do hold the Hamas responsible for Israeli incursions into the Gaza Strip in search of weapons, bombs and those deemed terrorists by Israel.

A new discussion has arisen whether to accept the offer.  The last 90 day “hudna” broke down half way through with the #2 bus explosion.  The latest military pressure has been effective and now the question is where to draw the line.

In the Israeli democracy these life and death issues are discussed openly by the population and in the news media.  And as usual the western press is consistent in misunderstanding the issue.