March 24, 2004

Breaking the Cycle

Israelis appease terrorists every time they agree to a prisoner swap.

It goes like this.

Israel captures terrorists. Terrorists kidnap Israelis. Terrorists demand the release of their captured comrades. Israel capitulates. Terrorists declare victory and repeat as needed. And so on and so on. Forever.

Once this cycle of appeasement starts, itís a bitch to get off. Israel hasnít managed it yet. They released yet more prisoners Ė 436 of them Ė not two months ago.

But they are learning to stop a different cycle of appeasement before it becomes too much of a pattern.

In the year 2000 when Israel withdrew its forces from Lebanon under fire from Hezbollah, they withdrew behind the border recognized by the United Nations. There, they said. Weíve done what you wanted. Now, stop shooting at us.

But the shooting didnít stop. Hezbollah celebrated the Israeli withdrawal as a tremendous victory for itself. Look at the Jew, they said. Weak and afraid. We are winning. So Hezbollah demanded Israel retreat even farther, deeper inside Israelís own territory, so that Hezbollah can pull an old-fashioned land-grab and seize Israeli territory for itself.

Hezbollah now fires artillery not at occupation soldiers, but at civilians on the other side of the border.

Israel has learned from that mistake.

Ariel Sharon announced a withdrawal of forces from the Gaza Strip. Hamas, as expected, declared victory. What a propaganda coup, even if itís bogus. Nothing Israel does encourages more terrorist recruits than convincing the average Palestinian that terror gets results.

So Israel zeroed in on the Hamas founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and blew him to pieces in broad daylight.

Israel followed up that bold strike with an announcement. The entire Hamas leadership is now targetted for annihilation. That threat is credible and puts Hamasís claim of victory in serious doubt. It changes the entire calculus of the Israeli withdrawal. Israelis are leaving Gaza because they feel like it, not because they are weak, scared, bullied, bloodied, or losing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 24, 2004 9:00 AM
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