From Beirut to Jerusalem

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On Sunday, July 27, just hours after abducted IDF soldier Oleg Shaikhet's body was found, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah broadcast a call for the kidnapping of more Israelis.

 

Just a few days later, 17-year-old Dana Benett went missing, and then 19-year-old Eliezer Zusia Klughaupt disappeared. Several Israelis have reported attempted kidnappings – some at gunpoint – from which they were able to escape. Most of these attempted abductions emanated from the same area in the North. All have taken place since Nasrallah's call.

 

The fact that Benett and Klughaupt disappeared shortly after Nasrallah gave the order to kidnap Israelis naturally lends to the impression that Hizbullah has Israeli Arabs working for it who, like al-Qaida members, receive their orders from television broadcasts by their commander.

 

This week the IDF and the government both fingered Hizbullah and its patron, Iran, as the forces behind the Fatah terror cells that have not ceased operations during the hudna. Hizbullah is also known to be the source of Hamas's recently acquired ability to increase the range of Kassam rockets and to manufacture them in Samaria as well as the Gaza Strip.

 

During its war against Israel in Lebanon, Hizbullah operated on three levels simultaneously.

 

It conducted a guerrilla war of attrition against IDF forces in Lebanon; it conducted a terrorist war by shooting Katyusha rockets at the North; and it conducted psychological-warfare operations. Each of these operational tactics complemented the others, and together they brought about the achievement of Hizbullah's short-term objective – IDF withdrawal from Lebanon without Hizbullah's dismantlement or disarmament. Hizbullah's long-term objective — the destruction of Israel and its replacement by an Islamic state — was advanced during those years mainly through its attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in Europe and South America.

 

 

Another important aspect of Hizbullah's strategy against Israel in Lebanon involved the interruption of its guerrilla and terror operations with limited cease-fires. These cease-fires worked to force Israel to restrain its counterterror operations against Hizbullah, while placing no effective limitations on Hizbullah itself.

 

Hizbullah's actions against Israel were informed by its awareness of our diplomatic isolation. Understanding that Israel has no allies other than the US, Hizbullah could be certain that no international body, NGO, or alliance would back Israel's right to defend itself in Lebanon.

 

With Israel's precipitous unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, Hizbullah achieved its short-term goal. Since then it has been moving forward with its long-term goal of destroying Israel itself. Its refusal to recognize the international border set the international context of its continued aggression. The UN's unwillingness to stand up for Israel on the issue of borders proved Hizbullah's assumption that Israel has no international support regardless of its actions was correct. Its current cooperation with Palestinian terrorist organizations and the Palestinian Authority and its employment of Israeli Arab operatives within Israel allow Hizbullah to work toward its objective from its safe base in Lebanon.

 

There it continues to arm itself with tens of thousands of rockets now capable of hitting Haifa. The presence of this rocket arsenal gives Hizbullah an ever increasing military deterrent against Israel.

 

For their part, the Palestinians have from the beginning of their war against Israel three years ago invoked the Hizbullah precedent. On every score, on every level they have repeated Hizbullah's strategy. On the guerrilla-warfare front, the PA has deployed its security forces in limited shooting attacks against IDF soldiers. Then too, armed militias working with PA security forces have been involved in other guerrilla operations against IDF forces, like planting roadside bombs against tanks and firing at IDF outposts along the border with Egypt to prevent the uncovering of weapons smuggling tunnels. Ambushes of forces manning roadblocks have been conducted in Judea and Samaria to great effect.

 

On the terror front, terror cells have vastly increased the lethality of their attacks. If a decade ago such attacks were characterized mainly by shooting and stabbing incidents, today the suicide bomber has become the chosen weapon. And aping Hizbullah again, the Palestinians have acquired remote access to Israeli civilian targets by developing the Kassam rockets.

 

From the perspective of psychological operations, the Palestinians are of course operating with distinct advantages over Hizbullah. Not only do the Palestinians have a large constituency of Israeli supporters for their operations against Israel, they have the legitimacy of the entire international community, including the US, for their phase-one goal the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem and the expulsion of Jews from the areas under its control. The US is even unwilling openly to oppose the Palestinian demand for the transfer of millions of Palestinian refugees into Israel.

 

The Palestinians have succeeded in their campaign to convince both Israel and the rest of the world that their declared intention to destroy Israel is simply rhetoric. As well, through the road map, they have achieved their most stellar success. The road map grants them their phase-one goal without their even having to negotiate an accord with Israel. The road map dictates that the international community, not Israel, will be the granter of Palestinian sovereignty and the arbiter of when the Palestinians will be accorded such sovereignty.

 

Through their actions today, the Palestinians have shown that like Hizbullah, they intend to achieve their phase-one goal without disarming or disengaging from their military campaign against Israel. Like Nasrallah, Mahmoud Abbas has made clear that he will not lift a finger against Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, or any other terror group that is or may begin operating from the territory the PA controls.

 

By maintaining their refusal to accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, their insistence on the "right of return" and their identification of Israeli Arabs as Palestinians, the Palestinians are setting the context for the next phase of their campaign against Israel, which will begin immediately after they are granted statehood.

 

Already in the present phase of their campaign, Palestinian terror groups have utilized Israeli Arabs to carry out attacks against Israel. Through its alliance with the Islamic Movement, Hamas has made official inroads into the Israeli-Arab community. For its part, the PA has its representatives in the Knesset, from Ahmed Tibi to Azmi Bishara, who wage a continuous campaign to delegitimize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

 

Neither the Palestinians nor Hizbullah have made any real attempt to hide their actions or intentions. The actions of both the Israeli and US governments have shown that there is no reason for them to bother. Where Hizbullah is concerned, both Israel and the US have made concerted efforts since May 2000 to ignore the fact that the group is involved in achieving its long-term goal of destroying Israel.

 

Its sporadic and deadly attacks against the North have gone unanswered. Who recalls Ehud Barak's promise that the minute Hizbullah tried to act against Israel, the IDF would return to Lebanon and destroy the organization? What price has Syria been forced to pay for its direct armament of Hizbullah and its continued refusal to allow the Lebanese army to deploy to the border with Israel?

 

As for the Palestinians, both Israel and the US are pretending that by repeating the exact policy adopted with such abysmal results toward Hizbullah, the opposite result will be achieved.
Both claim that by granting legitimacy to the PA, it will somehow be magically transformed from a terrorist actor to a peaceful neighbor.

 

The toll this irrational policy will take on US national security interests will be indirect. The decision to embrace a terror regime will no doubt erode America's deterrence against the terror groups it is actively fighting. But for Israel, the decision to repeat the strategic catastrophe of Lebanon with the Palestinians puts the future of the country itself in jeopardy.

Today, at the end stages of the PA's phase one, the Palestinians are developing rocket and artillery capabilities in Judea and Samaria. These capabilities will of course cancel any military value accrued by the defensive fence, which is being built to protect against phase one attacks: Palestinian bombers. The minute the Palestinians achieve statehood, they will no doubt use their territory as a training ground for Arabs who live on the Israeli side of the fence. Their rocket and artillery arsenals will allow them to attack from a safe distance.

 

Just as in Lebanon, the government claims that if the Palestinians attack after they receive a state, the IDF will be free to go in and destroy their military capabilities.

 

But given the unconditional support the Palestinians now receive from the international community headed by the US, it is difficult to imagine that Israel will have more international backing for such a move in the future than it has today. Just as in Lebanon, we will sit on our side of the fence, worriedly count the number of rockets the Palestinians are building, and do nothing.

 

One needs to wonder what is motivating Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who in 1982 had the strategic vision to understand that a PLO base in Lebanon was an unacceptable risk to the security of the state. How is it that he is financing and building Fatahland in Israel's heartland?

 

Ma'ariv investigative reporter Yoav Yitzhak reported last Friday that Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein has been delaying his investigation into alleged bribery charges against Sharon to allow him to advance in his peace bid. One would hate to think that given the precarious nature of Israel's situation, an unelected civil servant is gearing up to push Sharon into further imperiling the security of the state.

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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