Excellent observations from Saul Singer in the Jerusalem Post:
It is amazing how sophisticated the war against terrorism has become. According to almost every government in the world, the elimination of Ahmed Yassin was counterproductive, if not downright idiotic. Peace Now called it a “prize for Hamas.”
Someone really ought to alert those commandos hunting down Osama bin Laden to stop before it’s too late. Kill Bin Laden? What a prize for al-Qaida that would be.
What a rube I am for clinging to the primitive notion that eliminating a terrorist organization’s undisputed leader might prove to be a setback for it.
How could I have missed what was obvious to Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, that Yassin was a “moderating influence” on Hamas? And now it’s too late.
“We are deeply troubled by this action by the government of Israel,” said America’s UN Ambassador John Negroponte. “We didn’t think it contributed to the peace process.” And I thought that removing a leader who makes Yasser Arafat look like Mahatma Gandhi might be good for peace!
It is easy to dismiss such reactions, especially from a friend like the US, as lip service to ease doing what counts, namely blocking a Security Council resolution from Algeria – a country known for its delicate touch with fundamentalists. The same Negroponte said of Yassin, “He preached hatred and glorified suicide bombings of buses, restaurants and cafes. This Security Council should not, and the United States will not, support initiatives which ignore this reality.”
So what does it matter if the US gets in little digs while doing the right thing? It matters because it perpetuates a paradigm that is harmful to both the US and Israel.
Since 9/11, Israel’s enemies have clung desperately to the notion that their fight has nothing to do with the jihad against America. Embarrassing cracks in this facade do appear, such as when Palestinians cheered 9/11 itself and led the world among peoples choosing bin Laden as a leader who could be most trusted to “do the right thing.”
More typical, however, is the move of Hamas’s new leader, pediatrician and media favorite Abdel Aziz Rantisi, who already has said that Hamas has “no plans” to attack American targets. Message: I’m no bin Laden, so take me off your radar screen.
Even Hamas, which is not shy about refusing to contemplate Israel’s right to exist in any borders, must give the impression that the fight against Israel is not part of a global jihad. Yassin let it be known that he was willing to discuss a truce with Israel for 40 years. This was an attempt to have it both ways: not to give up on destroying Israel, but play into the idea that Israel can increase its acceptability by giving up territory.
THE PALESTINIANS understand that the world cannot bring itself to really oppose anything in the name of a struggle for their own state, but that there is little sympathy for a jihad to destroy Israel.
But what kind of war is the Arab-Israeli struggle? Are we witnessing a brutal but temporary interlude in a fundamentally negotiable conflict? Or a total war, fought only by armies and terrorists, that must end in one side’s total victory, like al-Qaida’s war against America?
The difference is critical, because negotiable conflicts, it is argued, need to be fought differently. This nuance is to be found in President George W. Bush’s response to the Yassin hit, “Israel has the right to defend herself from terror. And as she does so, I hope she keeps consequences in mind as to how to make sure we stay on the path to peace.”
There is no path to peace with al-Qaida, but there is one with the Palestinians. But here’s the rub: we can’t get near the path to peace until we beat the jihad that prevents this conflict from becoming a negotiable one.
Beating jihad requires tearing off, not participating in, its disguises. Hamas must be destroyed because its raison d’etre is to destroy Israel. For peace to have a chance, as Bush observed in June 2002, the Palestinians must choose “new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.” The “right of return” is not about resettling refugees, but about employing demography where tanks and terrorists have failed.
Every place jihad is allowed to masquerade as a nationalist struggle, it should be unmasked, with the explicit purpose of endorsing total war against it. Total war does not mean that a democracy should abandon its values and respect for innocent life, but it does mean fighting to win, not to negotiate.
The Yassin hit was a missed opportunity for the US to explain that groups like Hamas, Hizbullah, and Islamic Jihad may specialize in the “Palestine sector,” but they are blood brothers of al-Qaida and should be treated as such. The Bush administration’s lack of moral clarity on this does not just harm Israel’s security. It harms America’s. So long as even the US fears exposing the jihad against Israel, the war against global jihad cannot be won.