Friday, June 20, 2003

June 2003

Dear friends and colleagues,

Unfortunately, my last communication has proved to be overly optimistic and hopeful. Since then violence has ensued. One could reasonably envisage that some sections of the Palestinian authority would try to insert sticks in Abu Mazan's wheels. One also understands that every success of Abu Mazan undermines Arafat's authority. Yet, possibly as wishful thinking I hoped Israel and Palestine understand that violence is not the answer to anything. All it does is to breed more violence.

I tend to believe that Sharon is willing to make some painful concessions. I also tend to believe Abu Mazan's good intentions. At this point, however, these intentions are not sufficient. Both are unable to halt terrorism.

Israel's attempt to kill Rantisi immediately after the Aqaba summit was not prudent. It provoked, as could be expected, further violence. Israel claims Rantisi is not merely a political leader of the Hamas but is heavily involved in orchestrating and preparing murderous attacks on Israel. The timing of the attack, however, ill-served any attempt to put the peace wagon on the right track.
Targeted killing is a complicated issue. Granted that a state is entitled to fight down terror and to defend its civilians, should it resort to such means as well? Against targeted killing it has been argued that Israel is killing people without trial or due process; that mistakes do happen and innocent lives might be taken; sometimes, during the operations not only the targeted individual is killed but also bystanders, including women and children. Furthermore, while targeted killing may disrupt and deter some attacks, it is likely to provoke more killings of civilians as revenge and makes it more difficult to forge peace. Moreover, this policy of targeted killing offends our sense of moral sensibility when government officials are acting like hit squads.
For targeted killing it is argued that this policy has prevented some attacks against civilians, made terrorists devote time and energies to hide instead of planning murderous operations, weakened the effectiveness of terrorist organizations, and possibly served as deterrence. Targeted killing is performed after ample consideration and in accordance with established and well-defined criteria. It is not arbitrary and every effort is being made by the intelligence not to maim innocent bystanders. Terrorists are not immune to being targeted and killed. Fighting them cannot be conducted in accordance with pacifist principles and with velvet gloves. The Palestinian suicide bombers have no qualms or reservations. They seek to kill any innocent Israeli civilian, be it old people, children, women or infants. The more, the better. Any place is suitable for the evil attacks: restaurants, coffee shops, discos, night clubs, pubs, schools and kindergartens, universities, buses. Stopping these vicious operations is of obvious importance and provides justification for targeted killing as means of self-defence. Furthermore, casualties are minimized for both sides, as targeted killing does not resort to massive scale operations that endanger both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians. Indeed, targeted killing is a legitimate means to strike at those who terrorize lives of innocent civilians. Since the policy is applied against those who are either on their way to murder ("ticking bombs") or prepare the murderous attacks, targeted killing enables Israel to protect its civilians by eliminating those involved in the heinous attacks.

The debate on targeted killings has reached the Israeli public who after the Rantisi failed attempt said that Israel should halt this method for the time being and let the peace option a chance to materialize. Fifty five percent supports the government's decision to adopt the American Road Map. At the same time, 52% believe that the implementation of the Road Map will not lead to a peace settlement. Only 36% are optimistic regarding the Map success. 62% don't believe in Abu Mazan's ability and will to implement the Palestinian side of the deal.

Fifty nine percent of the Israeli public favour freezing all building operations within the settlements. 62% support the ending of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. 57% support the establishment of a Palestinian state. The majority of the Israeli public realized that the continuation of occupation is an assured recipe for terror and violence. Yet, the public would like to have more assurances from the Palestinian counterpart. The Israeli public believes the majority of Palestinians did not forego their dream to oust Israel into the sea and bring the Zionist state under the Palestinian flag.

Next week I am scheduled to leave for South Africa where I intend to participate in the IPSA conference and deliver some lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As ever, I will promote the Gaza First Plan as a possible option to break the deadlock. The Plan keeps floating in the diplomatic corridors and is now very much on this government's agenda. Gaza is a test case for many issues at stake: security, evacuation of settlements, Palestinian sovereignty, economy. Muchamad Dahlan enjoys a reputation of someone who can deliver, if he wishes. Time will tell whether this reputation is justified, and his real intentions.

With my best wishes, as ever,