Unilateral folly (HAŽARETZ NEWS OP-ED) By Moshe Arens 06/05/12)
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Civilians have now become equal partners with the Israel Defense
Forces in the war against Israel´s enemies. That is not the way it
was supposed to be.
It seems that some of our military-men-turned-politicians are
suffering from the unilateral withdrawal syndrome. It may be typical
of the military mindset: Get it over with! Finish the job! Do
something! Do anything! Actually, on some occasions that may be the
correct strategy. It usually comes under the heading of "Cutting your
losses." But often it may be the wrong way to go.
Two of our illustrious military leaders seem to have been afflicted
by this syndrome. One was Ariel Sharon, who peremptorily decided on
the unilateral withdrawal from Gush Katif and the forceful uprooting
of 8000 Israeli citizens from their homes, in the expectation that
the move would ease Israel´s defense problems and advance the peace
process. The other is the present defense minister, Ehud Barak, who
has a long record of espousing unilateral withdrawals in the
expectation that therein lay the solution to our problems, or else
that this is the way to evade an oncoming tsunami that he thinks he
sees approaching on the horizon.
His first opportunity came in 2000, when, as prime minister and
defense minister (he insisted on holding both positions ), he decided
on the unilateral withdrawal from the south Lebanon security zone,
abandoning Israel´s ally, the South Lebanon Army, and bringing the
Hezbollah terrorists up to the border fence in the north. He expected
this move would transform Hezbollah from a terrorist organization
into a Lebanese political party that would abandon its policy of
launching attacks against Israel, or alternately that Israel, after
the retreat, would be able to deter Hezbollah from continuing its
terror attacks against Israel. It didn´t work.
But that mistake did not lead Barak to change course. Switching to
the "land for peace" paradigm, he continued by offering the Syrians
the Golan Heights in the expectation that they would then rein in
Hezbollah in Lebanon. We can today consider ourselves fortunate that
that plan was not brought to completion. Trading land for peace
simply did not work, nor did deterrence work against terrorists.
Hezbollah celebrated the Israeli withdrawal, strengthened its hold on
Lebanon and amassed a vast arsenal of rockets that could reach a good
part of Israel. These rockets came down on Israel´s civilian
population during the Second Lebanon War, which was a direct outcome
of the unilateral withdrawal from the south Lebanon security zone.
Hezbollah rockets are today poised in far larger numbers to threaten
Israel´s civilian population in all of the country. We may want to
believe that we are capable of deterring them from launching these
rockets, but just to be sure we are investing tremendous resources in
the meantime to prepare the civilian population for such an attack.
Unless these rockets are removed, they are going to be launched
against Israel´s civilian population at a time chosen by Iran,
Hezbollah, or both.
But Barak cannot get unilateral withdrawal out of his mind. Now he
suggests that we consider staging a unilateral withdrawal from Judea
and Samaria, thus putting the central population areas of Israel in
the range of Kassam rockets to be launched from there.
Over the years, slowly, gradually, almost imperceptibly, Israel´s
civilian population has been brought to the front line alongside the
armed forces in time of war. Ben-Gurion´s strategy of securing their
safety in case of war has been abandoned. This happened first in the
border areas of the Galilee, then in the areas surrounding the Gaza
Strip, then in all of southern Israel. At present all of Israel´s
civilians have been allowed to become the first victims in case of
terrorist rocket attacks or outright war.
During the First Lebanon War Israel decided to defeat the terrorists
and brought about the expulsion of Yasser Arafat and his Palestine
Liberation Organization forces from Lebanon. During the second
intifada, in Operation Defensive Shield Israel chose to defeat the
terrorists in Judea and Samaria. Even though it has been demonstrated
that terrorists can be defeated, nevertheless deterrence, unilateral
withdrawals and "land for peace" have become the strategy of choice,
despite their proven shortcomings.
These strategies are carried out on the back of the civilian
population. They have now become equal partners with the Israel
Defense Forces in the war against Israel´s enemies. That is not the
way it was supposed to be. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 06/05/12)
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