Discuss now or fail later
Posted by aogFriday, 01 July 2005 at 15:43 TrackBack Ping URL

As the situation in the Middle East grinds slowly towards imposing a state on the Palestinians, I think it would be useful (but unlikely) for Israel and perhaps the blogosphere to wonder about what happens if the Palestinian state is brought in to existence yet continues to attack Israel. I just don’t see any discussion of this at all, yet it seems to be to be by far the most likely outcome.

On the one hand, Orrin Judd argues that the press of running a state will discourage the Palestinian leadership from engaging in attacks on Israel. I can see the merit in the view, if Palestine is at least moderately democratic. Yet given the backing the various armed factions in Palestine have from foreign governments (Iran, the EU, the Saudi Entity) I actually don’t think any votes in Palestine will be more free than that 1996 farce. Moreover, even if the voting is truly free, what does that matter if Hamas or the PA can shoot political opponents as “collaborators” before the election? The recent elections that brought Abbas to “power” illustrate this point. His success was clearly created via back room deals and violent intimidation well before the election was held, making it only slightly more democratic than the recent Iranian elections.

Of course, the single most important enabler for violent attacks from the Palestinian state will be Israel, which is highly unlikely to exact a price the Palestinian leadership and its backers are unwilling to pay. The Palestinian people have consistently demonstrated a willingness to suffer any misery as long as Jews are getting hurt as well. The recent attempt to bomb a hospital is a case in point. The woman was willing to blow a hospital in Israel that treated Palestinians because there were also Jewish citizens and children there, even if it meant no more treatment for Palestinians. Had she succeeded she likely would have been hailed as another hero by the very people now bereft of medical care. Certainly there doesn’t seem to have been any outcry against her for trying it. That would seem to be precisely the attitude that, in contrast to Judd’s view, will permit the Palestinian Authority to ignore local state maintenance as long as they keep up the attacks on Israel, particularly given the complete lack of a free press and politics.

This brings us back to why thinking about this now would be far better than waiting until it happens. A proper response will go against the grain of world and progressive opinion, likely even against public opinion in Israel. If there is any hope of the kind of accountablity of the Palestinian state and government required for a hope of peace, the groundwork would need to be laid now, not after the attacks have already begun and been blamed on Israel.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
pj Monday, 04 July 2005 at 09:55

I differ in just one point - the Palestinian leadership has shown no willingness to sacrifice themselves in order to kill Jews. Indeed, they’ve artfully kept the violence just below Israel’s limit of tolerance, assuring that they themselves are not targeted; and they never go themselves on suicide missions, even when they’re 70 and dying, but send children as suicide-bomb fodder.

If Israel is willing to target the leadership of a warring state, then it may well be able to deter terror attacks.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 04 July 2005 at 12:34

That’s actually my primary point. Israel should be discussing whether they’ll target the leadership now, before it’s a crisis. It might well reduce the level of violence or at least psychologically prepare the Israelis and their government for serious violence.

pj Monday, 04 July 2005 at 15:41

In war, nobody telegraphs their future moves. It would not be to Israel’s benefit to pre-announce future assassinations.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 04 July 2005 at 16:23

I’m not sure I agree with that. What is a mutual defense treaty except telegraphing future moves in war? What as the Mutual Assured Destruction paradigm? What are the ongoing discussions of the rules of war in the USA today? What about the entire year and a half run up to the invasion of Iraq?

Obviously there shouldn’t be any public discussion of specific targets, but a general policy of “the IDF can target political leaders in the event of fatalities from cross-border attacks”? There will be such a discussion, it’s a question of whether to have it early, when it might do some more good, or later under the heat of battle.

pj Wednesday, 06 July 2005 at 11:10

Well, true enough. Sometimes you stake a position in advance. But it’s usually diplomatic to show the velvet glove and keep the iron fist hidden until use. Waving an iron fist around tends to lose goodwill.

The run-up to Iraq was about building support among decision-makers - first domestically, to get a Congressional resolution, then internationally at the UN. Israel doesn’t have to build support for future strikes at Palestinian national leaders who tolerate terror, because there’s no one decision-making on that question.

Tracked from Thought Mesh: The ugly middle ground on 05 July 2006 at 12:37

As the Israeli action in Gaza continues, it seems to me that the Israelis are finding the worst possible response...

End of Discussion