On Wednesday, March 13, 1996, we will witness a grand farce on an international stage. President Bill Clinton has assembled a group of some 31 nations to hold an "Anti-Terrorist Conference" on the shores of Sharm a-Sheikh, which lies on the coast of Egyptian Sinai. While no one can argue with fighting terrorism, the real purpose of the meeting is to shore up both the sagging political fortunes of Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Clinton's meager foreign policy credentials.
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 berachaha (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.
Bernard J. Shapiro is Executive Director of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies and editor, THE MACCABEAN. [This article was originally submitted to the Houston Chronicle on March 11, 1996 and never published.]
Many Israelis are now putting their faith in a new kind of ghetto wall surrounding their communities. For this reason, I am re-issuing a article I wrote about one year ago.