Calling a war a war

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

After a 33-year delay, the IDF began distributing war decorations on Yom

 

Ha'atzma'ut to veterans of the War of Attrition. That war, which until this

 

past November was never officially recognized as a war by the government,

 

lasted from June 15, 1967 until August 8, 1970. Its toll was 1,425 IDF

 

soldiers and officers killed in action and more than ten thousand wounded.

 

The decoration for service will be distributed to 333,474 IDF veterans who

 

served in active duty and reserves during that two-front war fought by

 

Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian regular and terrorist forces along the

 

Suez Canal, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jordan Valley.

 

There is no way to overstate the symbolic significance of this belated move

 

for the bereaved families who lost their sons and daughters during the War

 

of Attrition.

 

Yet, aside from the move's moral significance, there is an important

 

national interest that is served by the government's decision to officially

 

recognize the War of Attrition as war like the War of Independence, the

 

Sinai Campaign, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War and Operation Peace for

 

the Galilee.

 

In placing this war on par with the others, the government and the IDF are

 

signaling that they understand that wars are not necessarily bracketed

 

moments in time characterized by intense violence carried out by opposing

 

armies of conventional forces engaged in open battle.

 

For although there were such battles in the War of Attrition, the war was

 

mainly characterized by ongoing skirmishes, limited offensives and

 

counteroffensives, terrorist raids and counter-terrorist raids.

 

Two years after he launched the war against Israel, Egyptian President Gamal

 

Abdel Nasser in June 1969 explained its objective. 'I cannot conquer the

 

Sinai,' he said, 'but I can break the will of Israel by attrition.'

 

In this simple statement, Nasser exposed the entire doctrine of guerrilla

 

and terrorist warfare, or what is now, in the aftermath of the September 11

 

attacks called, 'asymmetrical warfare.'

 

Israel is no stranger to asymmetrical warfare. It has plagued us since the

 

advent of modern Zionism. As Nasser stated, its aim is to break our will to

 

fight in order to compensate for our enemies' inability to defeat us in

 

conventional arenas.

 

Terrorism, guerrilla raids, political and economic pressure as well as

 

psychological warfare are all components of wars of attrition.

 

While the terrorism causes our citizenry to live in fear and harms our

 

economy, the psychological aspect of being internationally isolated causes

 

societal disintegration as the legitimacy of the state is called into

 

question by Israelis themselves who seek a way out from under the crushing

 

pressure of the asymmetrical trap.

 

Just after the Palestinian Authority launched its terror war against Israel

 

in the fall of 2000, Maj.-Gen. (res.) and now Mossad chief Meir Dagan

 

explained to me that terrorism is a strategic threat to the State of Israel

 

because it aims to make it impossible for Israelis to live normal lives and

 

thus cause the disintegration of society.

 

In an interview last year, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon

 

expressed a similar viewpoint. Ya'alon then stated that because the aim of

 

the Palestinian terror war is to cause the disintegration of our society, it

 

is the most crucial war that Israel has fought since the 1948 War of

 

Independence.

 

Ya'alon said in an interview this week with Ma'ariv that like the War of

 

Attrition, 'I think that the war with the Palestinians is also worthy of a

 

war decoration. We have endured two and a half years of continuous war and

 

when it ends we will address the issue of the war decoration,' he promised.

From these and other statements by our security brass it is clear that those

 

responsible for safeguarding the security of the state understand that just

 

because our enemies use explosives, rifles and primitive mortars and rockets

 

against us rather than tanks and fighter craft does not mean that they are

 

not fighting a war against us. These statements expose an acute awareness

 

that we are living in an environment characterized by the presence of war

 

just as dangerous if not more dangerous to our survival than conventional

 

wars of the past. The danger is actually higher to a certain degree because

 

of the amorphous, undeclared nature of these campaigns against us.

 

As for the conventional threat to Israel's survival, there is no doubt that

 

Operation Iraqi Freedom degraded this threat significantly. Israel no longer

 

needs to worry about the specter of Iraqi forces invading the country from

 

Jordan or Syria. In fact, from the perspective of diminishing conventional

 

threats, the war against Saddam Hussein was even more significant than the

 

1979 peace treaty with Egypt because unlike the Egyptian army, the Iraqi

 

army has been effectively destroyed.

 

Just as President Anwar Sadat was taking the Egyptian conventional threat to

 

Israel off the table at Camp David, the threat of terrorist warfare

 

catapulted to global prominence with the Islamic revolution in Iran. Joining

 

radical ideology with terrorism, Ayatollah Khomeini signaled that a new

 

threat to Israel and indeed to the entire Western world was on the rise.

 

While the September 11 attacks were the most glaring single manifestation of

 

the threat terrorist wars constitute for open societies like Israel and the

 

US, it has been clear for years that Iranian and Saudi inspired and

 

supported global terrorist networks are, next to weapons of mass

 

destruction, the most significant strategic threat to global security. From

 

Syria to Lebanon to the Palestinian Authority to Iran and beyond, the most

 

salient threat Israel faces is ideologically inspired terrorism.

 

As if to make this point clear to us, the attack at Mike's Place in Tel-Aviv

 

ten days ago was carried out by Pakistani immigrants to Britain. As Ya'alon

 

pointed out, 'Two guys with Pakistani origins who have nothing to do with us

 

are so full of hatred that they are willing to commit suicide in order to

 

kill Jews. This makes it abundantly clear how destructive the incitement

 

campaign in Muslim lands against Israel and the Jewish people really is.'

 

In its actions in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in its policies towards

 

everything from the UN to the French and German governments to Saudi Arabia

 

and Egypt, the Bush Administration has shown that the September 11 attacks

 

were enough to force the US to define global terrorism as the most dangerous

 

threat to its national security. It is willing to go after and destroy any

 

and all threats even if doing so involves alienating its allies abroad.

 

Then too, in its post-September 11 homeland security legislation and

 

anti-terror investigations the US has clearly shown that it is willing to

 

sacrifice certain civil liberties that impede its law enforcement arms'

 

ability to prevent terrorism and destroy terror networks in America.

 

Unfortunately, in Israel after two and a half years of a continuous

 

terrorist war against us, a parallel change in our politicians' thinking has

 

yet to occur. Although Fatah's terror attack in Kfar Saba was directed from

 

Iran and the attack in Tel-Aviv was the work of either Al-Qaida or

 

Hizbullah; while Iyad Bak, the Hamas terrorist who was killed Thursday in

 

Gaza by an IAF Apache helicopter was involved in setting up Al-Qaida cells

 

in Gaza, we continue to view the Palestinian terrorist war as something

 

removed from the global terroris
t nexus. By limiting our view to only those

 

aspects of our strategic landscape that our politicians wish to see, we

 

receive distorted policy initiatives and decisions that if implemented will

 

make it difficult for us to fight this war let alone emerge victorious from

 

it.

 

Last week for instance Shinui MK Ehud Ratzbani requested that the Knesset's

 

finance committee slash the IDF's budget to reflect the elimination of the

 

Iraqi threat. Ratzbani has taken this initiative in spite of the fact that

 

the IDF is already set to have its budget slashed by 12.5 percent over the

 

next two years even as the terror threat and the threat of weapons of mass

 

destruction continues to rise from month to month.

 

Then too, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz decided some two months ago that

 

he will not revoke the citizenship of Israeli citizens who commit terrorist

 

attacks against their fellow citizens. This in spite of the fact that global

 

and local terror groups are going to great lengths to recruit Israeli Arabs

 

to their ranks. In so doing, in stark contrast to what is happening in the

 

US, far from expanding the tools the law places in his hands to protect

 

Israelis from terrorism and to punish offenders, in the midst of the war,

 

Poraz is limiting the government's use of already existing law enforcement

 

tools.

 

The fact that the government decided to decorate veterans of the War of

 

Attrition has the potential to be as strategically significant as it is

 

morally imperative. Yet, while the leaders of our security forces understand

 

that terrorist wars of attrition of today like the War of Attrition so many

 

years ago are real wars, our politicians seem not to have received the

 

message.

 

 

Since we are a democracy, our politicians are the ones who must be

 

convinced to accept our reality. Only by doing so will our security chiefs

 

and law enforcement officials receive the support they need to enable us to

 

emerge victorious from this war as we have from all its predecessors.

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

 

It's only fair to share...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

No Comments

Leave a Comment