Fighting Terror In Israel
Ze'evi assassination requires a firm response, but the current situation is untenable
We deplore the failure of the PA to cooperate with Israel on this matter and support Israel’s demands that the Palestinians hand over the criminals for trial in Israel. In light of Arafat’s failure to arrest and imprison those terrorists who find sanctuary under his regime, we support Israel’s ability to seek out those responsible for the attack. Israel has a right to defend its citizens, especially given that the PA seems to have little interest in combating terrorism.
When Sharon made his demands to Arafat, he said failure to comply would label the PA as an entity that harbors terrorists—a warning modeled on that given by Bush to the Taliban in his speech before Congress. In the days since, Israel has invaded a number of West Bank cities in its search for militants. We believe that Israel’s actions must adhere to basic principles of human rights and must respect the safety and property of civilians not involved in terrorism. Nevertheless, Israel has as much right as the United States to protect its citizens from terror.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist group that claimed responsibility for Ze’evi’s murder, says the action was in response to Israel’s killing of one of its leaders in August. Ze’evi’s assasination, however, is different from any action that Israel has taken against the PFLP in self-defense. By murdering a democratically elected politician, the PFLP set itself against not only Israel but every democratically elected government.
We are heartened that President George W. Bush condemned the assassination in the strongest possible language. But the administration should recognize that the difficulty Israel is facing in the Palestinian territories is nearly analogous to those that have arisen in the campaign against terror the U.S. has begun in Afghanistan. It is hypocritical to assert otherwise, especially if Bush’s recent demands for an Israeli pullout are intended to conciliate the Arab nations who have signed on to America’s coalition against terror. Terrorism should not be allowed to sway U.S. foreign policy or derail our nation’s relationship with our only true ally—and the only democratic country—in the region.
The Palestinian Authority has taken some actions against the PFLP, but significant steps against it have been opposed by many Palestinian groups that have taken an active role in the current uprising. Given the increased support of terrorist organizations such as Hamas among the Palestinian populace, it is unlikely that the PA could meet the Israeli demands even if it wanted to.
Nevertheless, the tanks that have rumbled into Palestinian towns over the last week cannot stay indefinitely. Israel must defend its citizens, but it also must realize that the Palestinians will eventually have to take charge of their own affairs. Perhaps with more pressure, Arafat will realize that his only option is to stop inciting his own people and to destroy the terrorists who work in their midst.
More Invasions Not the Answer
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has fallen into an easily discernible pattern: a Palestinian terrorist kills Israelis. Israel assassinates suspected terrorist leaders or invades Palestinian towns to arrest those believed to be responsible, often killing non-terrorists in the process. Then another act of terrorism is launched against Israel in retaliation for the arrests and deaths, and the vicious circle continues.
The assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi two weeks ago marked a tragic turn in the already bloody conflicts in Israel, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. However, the recent Israeli invasion of Palestinian towns, including Bethlehem—which had not been invaded within the last year—will only exacerbate the situation. The PFLP, Hamas or another terrorist organization will likely retaliate for the invasions and the 38 Palestinians who died during them. As the staff says, Palestinian opinion is so anti-Israel (a higher percentage of people in Gaza support attacks on Israel than support the peace process) that it is nearly impossible for Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to try to bring terrorists to justice.
Only if Israel is willing to help create a stable Palestinian state and to stop the helicopter attacks, invasions and other actions that help fuel hatred in so many Palestinians will the PA ever be able to handle its own affairs. Yasser Arafat should root out violent extremists and terrorists among his people, but Israel must give him the support necessary to do so and not continue to subvert his powers by invading the West Bank at will. It is difficult to ask a country that has just had a cabinet member assassinated to show restraint and patience in bringing the perpetrators to justice and giving the PA the time and means with which to do so, but it is the only chance to prevent further death and destruction in a region that cannot afford any more.
—Lauren E. Baer ’02, David M. DeBartolo ’03,
Joseph P. Flood ’04 and Meredith B. Osborn ’02