Thursday, September 05, 2002

Two recent articles in Ha'aretz inadvertently illustrate my previous point about the tremendous change in Israel brought about by Operation Defensive Shield (also noticed by Israel Harel, who--incorrectly, as I will demonstrate--emphasizes its effect on Palestinians, not on Israelis). One, by Danny Rubinstein on the state of affairs in the occupied territories, alludes cryptically at the end to a "new deterioration" on the "security front", due to the heightened suffering of the Palestinians under de facto Israeli reoccupation. Ze'ev Schiff, a widely respected military analyst, likewise alludes vaguely to predicted "acts of revenge" if the army is not more careful about preventing inadvertent Palestinian civilian casualties in its anti-terror operations.

It's only in the context of the past two years' political discourse in Israel that these articles' veiled implications can be properly understood. During the first eighteen months of the current conflict, the argument that harsh Israeli anti-terror measures would only provoke harsher terrorist attacks in retaliation was a staple of the left's campaign to reopen political negotiations. The argument disappeared completely from view in the aftermath of Operation Defensive shield in March; the brutal campaign of bombings immediately before the operation, and the drastic decline in attacks immediately following, provided ample empirical proof of its speciousness. These two new articles by Rubinstein and Schiff mark the first signs I have seen of the argument's soft, hesitant return to speakability.

These two journalists would do well to bear in mind the most recent poll of Palestinian opinion in the territories, in which a majority (52 percent, to be exact) of those surveyed expressed support for terrorist attacks against civilians inside Israel. While seemingly high, this number is in fact identical to the figure from July 2000, before the current armed conflict--that is, before any Israeli anti-terror measures in PA areas--even began. It also represents a modest decline from the 58 percent support rate measured in December, 2001--after the start of hostilities, but before the full-scale re-entrance of the IDF into the PA-controlled portions of the territories during Operation Defensive Shield.

In other words, there has never been a shortage of enthusiasm among Palestinians for anti-Israel terrorism--irrespective of Israel's anti-terror military actions--and any decline in terror attacks can thus be credited to the army's vigorous counterterrorist activity, not to any imagined conciliatory sentiment on the part of the legion of supporters of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. The very idea is as ludicrous now as it was two months ago, when Rubinstein and Schiff would not have dared embarrass themselves by suggesting it.

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