You must fight terror with cold, hard tactics

Many of us reacted this week to the news of Israel’s targeted killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin with a mixture of grim satisfaction and deep foreboding, sensing that the conflict with the Palestinians may not have reached bottom after all. Far from it.

On the one hand, Israel had every right to eliminate the leader of Hamas, a group whose express goal is the destruction of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. Sheik Yassin had the blood of hundreds of innocent Israelis on his hands. To be precise, since the suicide war began in September 2000, Hamas has carried out 425 terror attacks, according to the Israeli government, and killed 377 Israelis — Jewish and Arab. Clearly, in a war one has the legal and moral right to kill one’s enemy before he kills you, and though referred to as a “spiritual leader,” Sheik Yassin preached death and gave the orders, and rationale, for acts of murder.

But there was also the realization that the determination on the part of Palestinian fundamentalists to ratchet up the violence tenfold was unleashed when the Israeli helicopter missile found its target Monday, March 22. The ultimate question is whether the killing of Sheik Yassin will lead to the taking of fewer, or more, Israeli lives. For that we have no immediate answer.

But to those who suggest that the killing of the Sheik will only escalate the violence, there is a misperception at play. That is the notion that if Israel refrained from targeting the leaders of Hamas and the other terror groups, there would be a lessening of the number of attacks and killings on the part of the Palestinians.

It’s like the old joke about the two Jews waiting to be executed by a firing squad. One asks his friend, “Do you think I could ask for a last cigarette?” And the other says, “Shhh, don’t make trouble.”

A bitter bit of humor, indeed, but some of us are still worried about making trouble. What will the Europeans say if Israel targets and kills the leader of Hamas? What new resolution will the United Nations Security Council pass condemning Israeli morality?

The sad facts are that the Europeans will oppose Israel’s position as long as Palestinian demands are not met fully, and the United Nations has never passed a resolution sympathetic to Israel, and never will. More importantly, the Palestinian terror attacks on Israel continue unabated, as many as 50 a day, and the only reason more innocents are not killed is because of the courage and skill of the Israeli Defense Forces, and its security and intelligence network.

What probably sealed Sheik Yassin’s fate was the Hamas-initiated double suicide bombing in Ashdod earlier this month, when 10 innocents were killed. More ominously, army officials concluded that the attack was an attempt to blow up nearby storage fuel tanks, which could have resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths.

Israeli officials say the notion that targeted killings only leads to more violence is just not true. Since Israeli troops went back into Palestinian cities and towns, searching out terrorists in response to the Passover Seder suicide bombing in a Netanya hotel two years ago, the killing of Israelis has been reduced by almost half.

“We are braced for more attacks,” historian and author Michael Oren told me the day after Sheik Yassin was killed, “but given the choice of risking retaliation or letting the Sheik go unpunished, it is unthinkable not to go after him. Otherwise, we Israelis have no right to be here, we might as well just go back to Poland.”

Dan Schueftan, a political scientist at Haifa University whose book, “Disengagement: Israel and the Palestinian Entity,” has been a keystone of the government’s unilateral withdrawal policy, says the only way to fight terror is to eliminate the terrorists and their leaders. If you worry about the short term, he says, in terms of retaliatory strikes, you are already defeated.

In the short term, though, the only way to stop the terror is to capitulate, said Schueftan, who is also a senior fellow at the Shalem Center. He said that was what Spain did after terrorists struck its railroad system two weeks ago, and he called the Madrid government decision a cowardly act that will only lead to more bloodshed of innocents.

“You must do only what infuriates the terrorists,” Schueftan insisted. “It’s not a cost, it’s a benefit.”

That’s a brutal message, but it has a cold, hard logic that is difficult to refute. Hamas is not about two-state solutions, shared land, logic, tolerance or humanity. It’s about destroying Israel, the Jews and, ultimately, the democratic lifestyle America symbolizes. There can be no compromise with those who find meaning and holiness in destroying you and everything you stand for. The sad fact is that terrorism can’t be negotiated, it can only be defeated.

Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week.

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