Colin Powell has failed, so far, in his attempt to browbeat Israel into joining America’s official surrender in the War on Terrorism. Yet Ariel Sharon has repeatedly stated that his armies will eventually withdraw from the West Bank, and that Israel does not intend to remain in control of Palestinian territory “for any length of time.” This is a crucial mistake, because it is vital for Israel’s victory in its war of survival–and for whatever is left of America’s battle against terrorism–that Israel establish permanent control over the West Bank, renewing its occupation of Palestinian territory.
The conventional wisdom is that the Israeli occupation and resulting Palestinian “resentment” is the cause of the current conflict. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The massive escalation of the Palestinians’ terrorist war actually coincides with the withdrawal of Israel’s occupation. Under the 1993 Oslo accords, Israel has spent most of the last decade pulling out of Palestinian territories and transferring control to Yasser Arafat. The result was not peace, but the creation of a Palestinian regime based on anti-Jewish terrorism.
The creation of this terror regime began during the intifada that led up to the Oslo accords. During this uprising, Palestinian militants killed hundreds of fellow Palestinians accused of “collaborating” with Israel. In other words, they exterminated anyone who might want to live peacefully with the Jews. Rather than seeking to protect friendly Palestinians, Israeli doves and American diplomats betrayed any such “moderate” Palestinians by installing a terrorist thug, Arafat, as their new political master. Moderates got the message and joined the radicals. No new moderates have dared to poke up their heads.
Those who did criticize Arafat have been imprisoned, threatened, suppressed. Palestinian society has been shaped by an opposite influence: an educational system in which children are showered with anti-Jewish propaganda and praise for suicide bombers; Palestinian “summer camps” in which teenagers are taught how to murder Israelis; an anarchic society in which prestige goes to young men who join armed militias and terror brigades. Terror, in this Palestinian culture, is the primary form of political currency. Arafat lieutenant Marwan Bhargouti has openly boasted that terror bombings by the Arafat-sponsored Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are what restored the prestige and influence of Arafat’s Fatah political faction.
All of this has increasingly fused with the outlook of Islamic fundamentalism, which glorifies mass-murder martyrdom as a moral ideal. Israeli raids have found evidence that Arafat provided direct financial support for terrorism, but the most important form of that support is the least expensive: money for posters proclaiming the heroism of the latest suicide bomber.
What Israeli is doing now–arresting militants, destroying suicide bomb factories, seizing weapons caches–is necessary, but it is not enough. These operations only eliminate, for the moment, the products of a terrorist culture. But if Israelis want to be able to live in peace, the terrorist culture itself must be uprooted. Only an Israeli occupation can achieve that goal.
There has been a lot of talk about the “legitimate aspirations” of the Palestinian people for an independent state. But people who embrace suicide bombings and choose career killers as their leaders–as the Palestinians have done–have no legitimate political aspirations. They will be “ready for democracy” only when they stop worshipping murderers.
Israel needs to replace the Palestinian Authority with a permanent occupation, an Israeli colonial administration charged with the task of civilizing a people made barbarous by decades of terrorist leadership. This occupation should remove terror indoctrination from Palestinian schools, make life safer for civilized Palestinian leaders, and make terrorism a road to prison or death, not popular adulation.
Most important, the occupation must seal off Palestinian territories from the real instigators of terrorism. The claim that terrorism is primarily a response to Israeli actions is terrorist propaganda. In reality, terrorism is fed and driven by outside sponsors: by Iran, whose theocrats provide money, weapons, and training; by Iraq, whose dictator offers bounties to suicide bombers; by Syria, the base for terror groups like Hezbollah. If Israel withdraws, these forces will flow back in to rebuild the culture of terrorism.
These are the lessons we thought we had learned after September 11: that terrorists have no right to gain a hearing for their cause; that we must answer them with destruction, not negotiation; that we must uproot them by striking at their organizations and sponsors. The crisis in Israel is a test of whether there is anything left of that vision.