Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Limitations of Democracy in its Fight against Terrorism

By Zvulun Orlev
We have Failed to Eradicate It
Operation Protective Edge is not the first battle in our series of wars against Islamic terrorist organizations which we are not finding it easy to defeat. Even though the IDF has won every direct battle, we were not able to root out Fatah in the Peace in the Galil operation, the Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War, or Hamas in Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense, and not now in Protective Edge. The common denominator in all of these cases was that we did not have control for any length of time over the land areas where the terrorist organizations operated. At the end of each operation, they gathered their strength and returned to their old ways. Israel never once initiated a preventive strike against a terrorist organization at a time and in a place of its own choosing, except for secret operations (such as Youth of Spring in 1973) and a series of targeted eliminations of terrorists. Why have we never been able to eliminate the terrorist organizations that exist outside of territory which we control?
From the beginnings of Zionism until the establishment of the State of Israel, terrorist organizations and Arab gangs have been fighting us. We fought them and we were victorious, making use of our own organizations: the Palmach, the Hagannah, Etzel, and Lechi. In defiance of the recognition of the United Nations (in November 1947), the Arab nations declared war, and we won the War of Independence. From that time until the Yom Kippur War, we fought and won against Arab countries – in the Sinai operation, in the Six Day War, in the Yom Kippur War, and in smaller operations during and after these major wars.
Organizations and not Countries
As of the Yom Kippur War and afterwards, the Arab countries have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to conquer us by the use of direct military force, and the threats of our neighboring countries have become less important than before. (Note that Syria in particular is not a real threat to us.) This fact can be seen in the peace treaties that we signed with Egypt and Jordan. (We are treating the nuclear threat from Iran in the normal way a country that is threatened reacts to the country which puts it in danger.) However, there is a catch: When the Arab countries realized that they could not defeat us by military power, they started to operate in the framework of nationalistic terrorist organizations (PLO, Fatah, and the National Front) and extremist Islamic terrorist organizations (Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad), with a declared goal of destroying us a Jewish state and expelling us as a nation from Eretz Yisrael. What the countries failed to do, the terrorist organizations are trying to do instead.
Israel is fighting against the terrorism with "heavy weights tied around its neck." We are under the supervision of the United Nations and restricted by international agreements and by links related to science, commerce, and our purchases (including military equipment). As a democracy, we operate under the control of the government, the Knesset, public opinion, the State Comptroller, the High Court of Justice, the press, and a system of laws and values (ethics, "purity of arms"). Any country that strays out of the bounds of United Nations rules, international treaties, and international public opinion is in danger of being punished with formal or informal sanctions. One the other hand, the terrorist organizations are not obligated by any rules – not to their people, the United Nations, or any other nations. They do not operate under ethical rules of war, according to national rules, or subject to criticism of any human rights organizations or the press.
Islamic terrorist organizations increase their threats of destruction by relying on fundamentalist religious faith that burns within them. They do not have any limitations, and as far as they are concerned everything is permitted – suicide bombers, murder of noncombatants, firing from within hospitals, schools, and mosques, total destruction, and cruel sacrificing of their own people. International law is very far behind with respect to terrorist organizations. So far, the enlightened world has released them from any obligations under international law.
Is there any way that Israel, as a democratic country, can eliminate these terrorist organizations? Our continuing control in Yehuda and the Shomron shows that constant control of the physical territory provides a significant capability of stamping out the terrorism. If we will be permanently in control of Azza we will be able to eliminate the Hamas. However, it seems that such a desire does not correspond to the need for a broad international consensus. The political and military capabilities are limited due to a fear of the high price to be paid (in both blood and money) and to undermining our international status and a fear of sanctions. On the other hand, control of Azza on only a temporary basis will only give a temporary solution. It will serve as deterrence, but not as a resolution of the problem. The length of time of deterrence will be proportional to the damage inflicted on the terrorist organization.
A Vision: Organizations versus Organizations
One solution to the problem that I admit is hallucinatory and unrealistic is to establish international military organizations that will stand up to the terrorist organizations, call them "treaty entities." Such new enterprises will not be bound by the limitations of existing countries. They will receive financial and propaganda support from the Jewish and Christian worlds and from nations that are willing to give support either in secret or openly. Many volunteers will be available to serve in such organizations, people who believe in the vital need to eradicate Islamic terrorism, which threatens the existing world order. However, my gentle readers, we must wake up from our daydreams! In today's bitter reality, we must stand up against growing western anti-Semitism, and friendly nations turn their backs to us in our fight against the Hamas, almost as if it is Judaism which threatens the entire world and not fundamentalist Islam.
However, until the world wakes up we will be forced to continue fighting terrorism on our own. Agreements are binding on sovereign nations but not on terrorist groups. The only way to treat them is with war, making sure to support the spirit of our nation, strengthen the national spirit, back up the national leadership, and encourage the use of intrigue in the military realm. All of these measures, together with patience and restraint, can bring us victory. "The nation of eternity does not fear a long journey..." [Rav Kook].

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