Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
If someone comes to kill you, kill him first.
TIME TO END POLICY OF RESTRAINT
By Bernard J. Shapiro (1998)
--Midrash Samuel (Jewish rabbinic text from early Middle Ages)
--Viet Nam soldiers after watching their friends get blown up by the enemy.
And the Almighty is with me and my cause is JUST.
--circa 1968 and adapted by the Freeman Center for IDF.
From the very early days of the Haganah and continuing with the emerging Israel Defense Forces (IDF), there was a policy of self-restraint or havlagah. This policy mandated that defenders could only return fire, hold their positions, and never to engage in counter-terror. This policy was based on the false premise that the Arab masses did not support the war against the Yishuv (the Jewish population before independence) and then the State of Israel and would be brought into the conflict if Israeli forces were too aggressive. There were some good and practical reasons for restraint in the early days. There was legitimate fear that the British would cut off immigration if the Jews were to go on the offensive against the Arabs. Havlagahwas essentially a Haganah (Labor/Socialist) policy and many supporters of Jabotinsky's Revisionist Zionist movement broke off from them to form fighting units (Irgun Zvai Leumi andStern) unrestrained by that policy.
The modern IDF was dominated by Labor and quickly adopted the policy of restraint and the concept of "purity of arms" as its official doctrine. The later reinforced the former by adding that a soldier should never have to obey an illegal order to commit some atrocity. The enemy, including prisoners of war, should be treated with dignity and civilian populations should be spared as much harm as possible, even if this causes greater Israeli casualties. There was some flexibility in this strict moral code. A young officer named Yitzhak Rabin (1948) was sent to fire on Jewish teenagers swimming to flee the sinking Altalena (he killed 16 of them). Many retaliatory raids were launched against terrorist targets in neighboring countries, killing numerous civilians as collateral damage.
This policy of restraint may have been practical during the pre-state days and even during the early years of Israeli independence. These periods were characterized by weakness and relative dependence on foreign goodwill. Following the Six Day War in 1967, the need forhavlagah decreased and the damage it caused began to become more evident. Israel became the preeminent power in the Middle East, yet failed to grasp the strategic opportunities that came with such dominance. Here are some of the historical highlights of the failed policy of restraint:
1. Following the Six Day War (1967) and the capture of Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan turned over control of Judaism's most sacred place, the Temple Mount, to Moslem authorities. He did it to appease their sensibilities to the Israeli capture of the city. Jewish rights were ignored to please the defeated Arabs, who had plotted our destruction. Dayan also prevented a mass exodus of Arabs from YESHA, which ultimately led to the problems we face today.
2. During the War of Attrition with Egypt (1969-70), the Israeli forces adopted primarily a defensive posture. They built a system of bunkers (The Bar Lev Line) along the Suez Canal. Israeli soldiers were heavily pounded daily by Egyptian artillery. Finally they began to use aircraft to strike targets deep into Egypt. The policy of restraint kept them from striking anything but military and minor economic targets. Israeli soldiers died because the government was inhibited from causing Egypt 'real' pain.
3. The Yom Kippur War of 1973 is a classic example of restraint run amok. Israeli military intelligence did not fail to recognize the approaching danger as has been the common account. In fact, Israel's leaders made the political decision not to utilize the great power of the IDF to crush the Egyptian and Syrian armies that they KNEW were planning to attack. Thousands of Israeli soldiers died needlessly.
4. The Camp David Accord (1978) with Egypt was another example of the failure to exert Israeli power. The oil fields of Sinai would have given Israel economic independence from America. The cost of redeployment from Sinai placed Israel in almost permanent debt to American diplomacy (often pro-Arab). Did Israel achieve anything worthwhile at Camp David? I think not and believe history will bear me out. Egypt has become one of the most ant-Semitic and hostile Arab countries in the world. As a result of Camp David, the Egyptian army now threatens Israel, having been equipped with the most modern American weapons.
5. During the War in Lebanon (1982), the IDF reached Beirut and then failed to complete the destruction of the PLO. Our enemies were allowed to escape and prepare to fight another day. Why didn't the Israeli Navy sink the ships loaded with PLO troops (including Arafat) as they fled Beirut? RESTRAINT!
6. In 1987 the intifada began and the Israeli forces showed great restraint and thus were incapable of crushing it. Of course, Israel received no credit in the Western media for such restraint. The failure to defeat this uprising began a process of demoralization among the Israeli population.
7. The Persian Gulf War (1991) and the SCUD attacks on Israel led to further demoralization. The failure to adequately respond to Iraq's aggression and the humiliating sealed rooms, led to a rapid decline in Israeli morale and desire to defend itself. More and more Israelis began to feel impotent, weak and fatigued with the continuous battle for survival. The Oslo Accords were the logical outcome of this depression and feeling that they could not sustain the struggle.
8. The Oslo Accords (1993) were the ultimate failure of the policy of restraint. Israel actually was very powerful. The IDF was unequaled in the Middle East. Yet despite this power, its leaders, were ready to grant equal status to a band of murderers and ultimately create a state of "Palestine" which would challenge its right to the Land and its capital of Jerusalem.
9. Israeli forces in Lebanon (today) are restricted in their ability to fight the Hizbollah and other terrorists. They must be given a free hand to 'punish' all those who facilitate attacks on them including Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. No more agreements that tie Israeli hands.
The damage caused by havlagah (restraint) has been immense and it far past time to reverse that policy. Israel must massively and disproportionately retaliate for terrorist attack. The murderers of Jews must be plucked from their safe havens in Palestinian Authority areas. Oslo must be declared null and void due to Arafat's non-compliance with its terms. No more giving him "one more chance." The test is over. HE FAILED! He and his cronies should be arrested and tried for murder.
MAY THE LION OF JUDAH RISE ON THIS ROSH HASHANA AND RECLAIM THE SOUL OF ISRAEL AND WITH A MIGHTY HAND VANQUISH HER ENEMIES....
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DETERRENCE OR DHIMMIZATION: Which Should Israel Choose?
By Bernard J. Shapiro
23 December, 1994
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 such 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.
In 1991, the Persian Gulf War, with its SCUD attacks on Israel, further undermined Israeli deterrence. Having to depend on United States Forces instead of her own had a deleterious effect on Israeli self-confidence. It is notable that the Arab population of Judea and Samaria danced on their on their roofs and cried, "Gas the Jews" as the SCUD's headed for Tel Aviv. The self-assurance of the Israelis also declined immensely as a result of their cowering in sealed rooms during the missile attacks.
After the war, Shimon Peres and his associates began to search for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that did not require deterrence. The answer, Peres thought, was to be found in the growing influence of the extreme left (Meretz Party) in Israeli's ruling Labor elite. For many years, the left in Israel and its supporters in America have promoted the doctrine of "Israeli guilt" for the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict. The leftists accepted the Arab propaganda version of Middle Eastern history and see their role as making amends for alleged "wrongs" committed against the Palestinian Arabs. When the Labor Party formed a coalition with Meretz, it was assumed that Meretz would be the junior partner. What we have witnessed is the virtual infusion of extreme left-wing philosophy into the body of Labor.
Peres took this "Israeli or Jewish guilt" and developed it into a "peace" policy based on rectifying "wrongs" committed against the Palestinian Arabs. The leftists saw the most serious "wrong" as being the occupation itself. Jewish rule over a minority of Arabs was considered so immoral, in and of itself, as to cause a destructive decline in Israeli democracy and public morality. The details of maintaining the occupation, like reserve duty in Gaza, were said to cause everything from violence in the home to reckless driving. Divorcing Israel from the territories was seen as a goal for Israel and not just a victory for the Arabs.
I describe the Peres "peace" policy as the "dhimmization of Israel." It was based on virtually giving the Arabs everything they wanted: a PLO state in most of the territories, control of land and water, return of refugees, and a shared status for Jerusalem. His belief was that by Israeli actions and concessions, he could terminate Arab hostility to Israel. Peres exhibited the fallacy of believing that anti-semitism is caused by the "bad behavior" of Jews. He failed to understand that there are major forces of religion, history and psychology in the one billion strong Islamic world that can not be manipulated by anything that Israel does. Would the Holocaust have been prevented if the Jews of Europe had been "nicer" to the Nazis? By shrinking Israel to a size that was non-threatening to the Arabs, Peres hoped to achieve for Israel the status of a dhimmis-nation in the Islamic world. Dhimmis status, you will recall, is the inferior third-class status afforded Jews in Arab countries throughout the centuries.
Israel, with its powerful military and independent citizens, had always been an affront to Moslems everywhere. Therefore, Jews should be made subservient, weak and dependent on the approval of their Moslem overlords. Peres understood that Israel in its present borders was too strong to be destroyed. He also understood that the Arabs were offended that they could not destroy Israel within its defensible borders. The Peres solution seems to involve making Israel weak, creating a PLO state, and generally groveling before Arab rulers. Such an emasculated dhimmis-like Israel, would now win the approval of the Islamic world. He would call it "peace." Some would call it appeasement. Some would cheer. Some would protest..Freeman Center members (and real Zionists) see the Peres/PLO plan as a nightmare and pray that Israel's leaders will come to their senses and return to a policy of deterrence, security and defense of Israeli interests.
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Terrorism is not fought with political theater, but with constant vigilance, good intelligence, and steadfast political will. The Israeli government has facilitated the present state of rampant terrorism in its country through negligence and ill considered "peace" moves. Some of the more important actions by the Israeli government which have impacted negatively on its citizens are the following:
1. Abandonment of its intelligence network of Arab agents in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. These Arabs were the "eyes and ears" of Shin Bet (Israelis internal security agency). Working with them over 90% of terrorist actions were prevented. When the Oslo Agreement was signed, lsrael made a political decision to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority security apparatus. Intelligence information was exchanged which compromised the identities of Israeli informers. The Palestinians systematically tortured and murdered over 1200 Arabs believed to be "collaborators" with Israel. While retaliation against these individuals was specifically forbidden in the Oslo Agreement, both Israel and the United States chose to ignore this brutal fact.
2. The creation of territory under the control of the Palestinian Authority had the immediate effect of also creating safe havens from which terrorist could operate. The assembly of high-tech suicide bombs became practical with a secure home base in which to train operatives and store explosive material. PLO Chief Yasir Arafat has protected the terrorist infrastructure of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad and allowed them to increase in strength and effectiveness.
3. The release of over 11,000 terrorist prisoniers as a part of political arrangements made the the concept of "punishment for a crime" obsolete. This had a significant influence in creating a climate for future terrorist actions.
4. The failure of the Palestinian Authority to extradite known terrorists had the affect of guarantying safety to anyone committing murder inside Israel and escaping the few miles into PA territory. While extradition of terrorists is guaranteed in the Oslo Agreement, it has never been carried out. Israel has chosen to ignore this violation and has lobbied the US Congress to ignore it also. After every terrorist outrage, Arafat has had a few people arrested with much fanfare, only to release them quietly a few days later.
5. The greatest political error by the Israelis has been the false assumption that Arafat would fight Hamas. It is no coincidence that Arafat attended the funeral of "the engineer," credited with inventing the car-bomb. At the funeral he praised the master bomber as a martyr to the Palestinian cause and urged his audience to emulate him. He called for jihad, a holy war to destroy the Jews and create a Palestinian state from the "river (Jordan) to the sea (Mediterranean) with Jerusalem as its capital." Hamas's Sheikh Mahmoud Zahar on the relationship between Hamas and the PLO: "Like the wings of a bird, they must work together."
Clinton has invited Arafat to the summit and is trying to get Syria's Hafez Asad to come also. What is the purpose of inviting terrorists to an anti-terrorist summit? It reminds one of hiring the fox to guard the hen house. Nothing can be accomplished at this conference except photo-ops and political games. Fighting terrorism requires a lot of hard work, away from the spotlight. It requires good intelligence acquired through building the confidence of informers that they will not be compromised. It also requires intelligence of another sort. The kind that can distinguish between friend and foe.
On September 3, 1993, the Jewish Herald-Voice published my press release from the Freeman Center: "The rush of events in the Middle East has been dizzying. The media hype, the talking heads, the worldwide expectations of peace in the Middle East are all quite staggering. Radio, TV, newspapers herald the coming of a new era of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. The positive images are so abundant that any moment one might expect to see Isaiah on Nightline showing Ted Koppel video clips of lions lying down with lambs. Though studying the same history as many of those cheering recent developments, I see nothing to be happy about. Once again I find myself marching to a different drummer. It has happened before, with my support for the civil rights movement (early 60's) and then the anti-war in Viet Nam struggle." Despite the media hype surrounding these developments, let me make something very clear: A leopard does not change its spots. And you can say a beracha (Hebrew blessing) over a ham sandwich, but that doesn't make it kosher. And a deal with the PLO is like a dance on quicksand --before you realize it, you have sunk into the muck and slime."
What I wrote then has proven to be true. I am saddened by this. I would have preferred to be wrong. The 220 Israelis who have died and the 900 horribly maimed by terrorists bombs would then be alive and well.
*This article was originally submitted to the Houston Chronicle on March 11, 1996 and never published.