I would say this speaks volumes (registration required) about taking the fight to the enemy.
When Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov visited Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on September 6, he had planned to complain about the usual litany: the stalled road map, Israel's security fence, and the recently announced expansion of West Bank settlements close to the Green Line. But then Chechen terrorists slaughtered Russian children and instead Lavrov asked for advice:
- Ironically, Israel had just buried 16 people--many of them Russian immigrants--after the simultaneous suicide bombings of two buses in the southern city of Beersheba. According to Hamas, those attacks were retaliation for the assassination, five months earlier, of its spiritual and political leaders, Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Yet the fact that it took Hamas almost half a year--and dozens of failed attempts--to make good on its threat to inflict immediate and massive punishment proves just how successful Israel's war against terrorism has been.
During those same six months, the Israeli army destroyed most of what remained of Hamas's organization in the West Bank and a substantial part of its infrastructure in Gaza. Just last week, Israeli gunships rocketed a Hamas training camp in Gaza, killing 15 operatives. Hamas leaders, who once routinely led rallies and gave interviews to the media, don't dare show their faces in public anymore. Even their names are kept secret. Hardly a night passes without the arrest of a wanted terrorist. Hamas's ranks have become so depleted that the organization is now recruiting teenagers: At the Gaza border, Israeli forces recently broke up a Hamas cell made up of 16-year-olds.
Meanwhile, life inside Israel has returned to near normalcy. The economy, which was shrinking in 2001, is now growing at around 4 percent per year. Even the tourists are back: Jerusalem's premier King David Hotel, which a few years ago was almost empty, recently reached full occupancy.
All summer, Israel seemed to be celebrating itself, with music and film festivals and a nightly crafts fair in Jerusalem that brought crowds back to its once-deserted downtown. Everyone knows a terrorist attack can happen at any time. Still, Israeli society no longer lives in anticipation of an attack. The Beersheba bombing, which once would have seemed to Israelis part of an endless and unwinnable war, is now perceived as an aberration
write Yossi Klein Halevi & Michael B. Oren. And here is the part that has particular resonance at home:
- At every phase of Israel's counteroffensive, skeptics have worried that attempts to suppress terrorism would only encourage more of it. They warned that Israel couldn't close Orient House, the Palestinian Liberation Organization's de facto capital in East Jerusalem, without provoking an international backlash and strengthening Yasir Arafat's hold there. They warned that, by isolating and humiliating Arafat, Israel would only bolster his stature at home and abroad. They warned that, by reoccupying Palestinian cities and targeting terrorist leaders, Israel would only deepen Palestinian rage and despair.
But this isn't the only lesson we can learn from the Israelis:
- To respond effectively, [Sharon] first had to convince Israelis that negotiating under fire would only encourage terrorism and that a military solution for terrorism did indeed exist. And so, one of Sharon's first acts in office was to meet with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) general staff and demand a plan for victory. Still, he didn't immediately go to war. The Lebanon fiasco of the early '80s had taught him the danger of initiating a military campaign without the support of both the mainstream left and the U.S. administration. (By contrast, Sharon didn't waste time wooing France and other European Union countries that wouldn't support the war on terrorism no matter what Israel did.) This is the first lesson Sharon could teach democratic leaders facing a war against terrorism: Insure domestic consensus and the support of vital allies.