Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
The article and excerpt below were originally written as editorials for 1995 issues of THE MACCABEAN.
DETERRENCE OR DHIMMIZATION
Which Should Israel Choose?
By Bernard J. Shapiro
Back in 1965, in a small meeting room in Tel Aviv, former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan gave a pep talk to a group of RAFI (Rishimat Poalai Israel) volunteers, myself included. At that time, RAFI, a breakaway faction of the Mapai Party, included su! ch notables as former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and former Defense Minister Shimon Peres. Peres and Dayan had been considered the "hawks" of Mapai and it was no accident that in the 1965 election they supported a strong defense and security policy.
Dayan was always interesting to listen to, but this talk was something special and we paid attention to every word. "The essence of Israel\'s security in this region (Middle East) is deterrence," he said. "When we formed the State in 1948-9, we were very weak. The Arab States had planes, tanks, heavy artillery and many more soldiers than us. We had very little heavy military equipment. In the period 1949-55, we absorbed almost a million immigrants. Tent cities sprung up all over the country. We were totally disorganized. Had the Arabs mounted another major invasion, we could have lost. We devised a solution to this problem. It was deterrence. Think about being lost in a forest and surrounded by hostile animals. If you light a torch, boldly approach them showing no fear -- they will retreat. But, if you show fear -- they will attack and you are lost. We used this principle to save Israel during those early years. Every time we were attacked, we retaliated ten fold. We showed daring and penetrated deep within their borders to attack our targets. We were fearless, brave, and even a bit bloodthirsty. You know the result. The Arabs were afraid and never attacked. Deterrence worked. By 1956 when we invaded Sinai, the Israel Defense Force was not just strong, it was invincible."
The story above was not told just for nostalgia. The lesson is extremely important for the survival of Israel today.
Unfortunately Israelis are daily witnessing the consequences of seven years of declining deterrence vis a vis its Arab population. In 1987, the intifada presented Israel with a new challenge. It was a new kind of war, but with the same aim of driving the Israelis out of their country. The Israelis fought the intifada with many handicaps, not the least of which were their own rules of conduct. Israeli soldiers failed to cope with attacks by teenage Arab boys. In the course of several years, the Arabs learned that the soldiers would not aggressively retaliate for their attacks. They became emboldened.
The Jews living in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza showed great fortitude, enduring thousands of attacks and still tripling their numbers. The serious security failure developed as Arabs became accustomed to attacking Jews and Israeli soldiers. By trying to remain humane in the face of massive attacks, Israel emboldened the Arabs to more and more attacks. Throwing concrete boulders, Molotov cocktails, and then using firearms at Israelis became the norm of behavior among the Arabs. The Israeli government allowed its citizens to be attacked solely because they were Jews. In no other country of the world would such a policy be tolerated. Just two weeks ago a reserve officer of the Israel Defense Forces made a wrong turn and ended up in the center of Ramallah, a Arab city. He was immediately attacked by a vicious mob of Arabs, murder in their eyes, who almost beat him to death. Deterrence had vanished.
While the Jews may not have been afraid like the man in the forest, the affect of multiple restrictions on the Israeli right of self defense had the same result. That result was to increase the bloodlust of the Arab population and to multiply the Jewish casualties.