Saturday, April 17, 2004

April 2004

Dear friends and colleagues,

On Targeted Assassinations, PA Financing of Terror, Sharon-Bush Meeting, Sharon's Disengagement Plan, Lecture in Arizona on State and Religion, Mel Gibson's Passion, New Books: Kashua's Vayeii Boker and Berman's Terror and Liberalism, Happy and Peaceful Independence Day

On Targeted Assassinations

My observations on the need for targeted assassinations in some instances have generated some debates. Some have questioned my reasoning and argued that no targeted assassinations should ever be allowed. I beg to differ.

I have explained why there is scope to consider targeted assassinations in the past. Here I will reiterate my previous discussion, aired some months ago, and supplement the argument with specific points tailored to address recent critique.

Against targeted assassinations it is 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.*

* Cf. Michael L. Gross, “Fighting by Other Means in the Mideast: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Assassination Policy”, Journal of Political Studies, Vol. 51 (2003), pp. 1-19; idem, “Assassination: Killing in the Shadow of Self-Defense”, in J. Irwin (ed.), War and Virtual War: The Challenge to Communities (Amsterdam: Rodopi, forthcoming). See also H.C. 769/02 Public Committee against Torture v. The Government of Israel.

For targeted assassinations 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 assassinations 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. The policy should be applied ONLY against those who are either on their way to murder ("ticking bombs") or those chief of operations who prepare the murderous attacks. Targeted assassination enables Israel to protect its civilians by eliminating those involved in the heinous attacks.**

** For further deliberation, see Asa Kasher, "The morality of preemptive warfare", Maariv (12 January 2001) (Hebrew); Steven R. David, "Fatal Choices: Israel's Policy of Targeted Killing", Ethics and International Affairs, Vol. 17, No. 1 (2003); Emanuel Gross, "Thwarting Terrorist Acts by Attacking the Perpetrators or Their Commanders as an Act of Self-Defense. – Human Rights Versus the State’s Duty to Protect its Citizens", Temple Int. & Comp. L. J., Vol. 15, No. 2 (2001), pp. 195-246; Emanuel Gross, "Self-defense against Terrorism – What Does It Mean? The Israeli Perspective", Journal of Military Ethics, Vol. 1, No. 2 (2002), pp. 91-108; Daniel Statman, "Targeted Killing", Theoretical Inquiries in Law, Vol. 5 (2004): 179-198.

I acknowledge there are legal and moral problems involved in the policy of targeted assassinations. I object to its being carried out as a matter of political whim. God forbid. Self-defence is permitted in certain situations and the degree of force applied must be strictly limited to the needs of the specific situation. I reiterate that targeted killing is permissible ONLY in two situations: ticking bombs and in cases like Yichye Ayash, "The Engineer".

I should further clarify that my objections to political assassinations is on a matter of principle. The decision for assassinations should stem from the military leadership, and the approval should be made by politicians. This is the right order of things. Hence my objection to Yassin's assassination. I added a utilitarian point about the calculus of harms against the Yassin assassination as a further argument, not at the expense of the principled reasoning I evinced.

People challenged me that sometimes the intelligence might be mistaken. This is true. When humans are involved mistakes might happen. The problem is that we don't have any other source to rely upon but our intelligence. If someone is on its way to carry a suicide attack, we need to rely on the information we have and stop him/her. As for the suicide planning side, luckily there are not many Ayashes around, and with regard to them the likelihood of misinformation is quite limited.

People further challenged me that people like Ayash and Muchamad Deff (current chief of Hamas operations) should be brought to trial rather than assassinated. Easier to talk than do. Our IDF was on the trail of Ayash for years until his assassination. The IDF is still looking for Deff, made attempts on his life a few times and failed. Furthermore, suppose the IDF knows the whereabouts of the Hamas chief of operations. Should it send an elite platoon to capture him and bring him to trial, risking the lives of our best soldiers, some of them will surely not return home given the close guard around such a person, or send an Apache helicopter to assassin him from the sky? It is easy to say "capture him" and face this tough decision and afterwards face the families of the soldiers killed during the operation. Most commanders anywhere in this world will opt for the Apache.

From the same utilitarian perspective that I evinced people challenged the wisdom of assassinating Ayash, saying that all it did was to unleash even worse regime of terror. Ayash was the person, "The Muhandes", who prepared the explosive belts, put them on the suicide murderers, organized their route, and planned the place of the attack. Ayash was the guy who "educated" his successor Deff and others. Ayash was responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis. Leave him to live is too costly. Israel has the right to target such a mass murderer.

I am not a pacifist and firmly believe we have the right to defend ourselves against terrorists. We should not be like "them", blood-thirst and hateful terrorists, nor do I think we are like them when we take such measures. This is war and in war times harsh measures like targeted assassinations may be taken.

Infra please find part of the correspondence I had with Steve Newman and with my good friend M. Like most, if not all, people on my network, M. is an ardent supporter of Israel. He has legitimate worries for both the security and moral fibre of the nation. I think the exchange might be of interest to some of you. Those who had enough with this topic are welcome to move to the next topic.

30 March 2004

Steve wrote:

Thanks for this, Rafi. But I'm still not persuaded. At the end of the day terrorism is a criminal problem and should be dealt with accordingly. It's just too easy to start bending the rules "because it's terrorism we're fighting." The war on terror in my own country, the United States, has already weakened protection for civil liberties and lent support to an ill advised and possibly illegal war against Iraq. It seems to me that in Israel the war on terror has coarsened Israeli public opinion and undermined the rule of law on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don't trust the state --any state --to decide when it's allowable to assassinate its enemies. Nor do I trust the state to decide how much "collateral damage" is acceptable.

It seems to me that we do not avenge the murder of innocents by killing the innocent, even if at the same time we terminate a "legitimate" target. Tit-for-tat killings amount to a recipe for never-ending violence. A truly cynical man might venture that Sharon and Hamas both know this, and they opt for prolonging the violence in order to ward off the possibility of peace.



Hi Steve,

You have the luxury of living in Canada. As said, I do not have this luxury. I cannot afford being a pacifist as much as I want to. Believe me that I don't trust my government. I detest it and its heads. Thus I oppose political assassinations. But I have more trust in my army. If a senior general says: That person was a suicide murderer, on his way to blow himself to pieces in our midst. We targeted him. His body exploded to smithereens as we did it. I don't have nay problem with this. There is no other way to stop suicide murderers. S/he will blow her/himself anyway. The question is whether other people will get killed as well.

Of course we need to minimize harm and be careful not to kill innocent people. I agree with you on this. Sometimes this is not possible. But allowing suicide murderers to carry out their mission because we hold lofty ideas about peace, freedom, tolerance and because we mistrust our government, well this is not for me. I am sorry. As you may know, I don't drive and use public transportation. The suicide murderers missed me six times or so by now. By "missed" I mean they blew up the same bus I ride, on the hour I usually take it, just a day after. Or they blew my bus stop, one that I attend on a daily base. Luckily they did it when I was not there. Such incidents happened a few times. Once there was an alert in my neighborhood and the areas was closed for long hours. Try to imagine the effect of this on young children.

I lost friends and colleagues in those murderous attacks. Last was Mark Biano, one of my best students ever, with whom I was writing an article: A young man, with a young wife, both with promising futures, individually and as a family. Both of them were murdered in a restaurant on Shabbat, while having lunch. I am sorry. I cannot adopt your point of view.

All the best,


31 March 2004

Dear Rafi,

I'm not made of stone. In your place I would probably feel the same way.

I don't think of myself as a pacifist. Far from it. I accept the necessity of using lethal force in self-defense and in defense of others. I would not hesitate to kill a would-be murderer, were there no other way to prevent the crime. For the same reasons, I would not second-guess a police officer or soldier who used lethal force to prevent a suicide bombing. But I worry when state sanctioned assassinations become an instrument of policy. We don't disagree on this, I think. If I read your message rightly, we disagree only on the acceptable level of force used to neutralize an immediate threat. E.g., is it appropriate to use a missile to take out a suspected bomber in a crowded market place? I can imagine circumstances where I would approve such tactics. If the missile were the only way to neutralize the threat, and if the target was about to enter an even more crowded environment where the casualty rate from an explosion would be even higher, then I would launch the missile. I think anyone would. In such a case we cannot avoid relying on a calculus of harms. But I'm not altogether sure that the usual fact situation conforms to my hypothetical. My hypothetical plays out in any civilian population, Israeli or Palestinian: collateral damage is inflicted on a smaller number of persons in order to save a greater number of lives. The state sanctioned policy of assassination, however, seems to impose all of the risk of collateral damage on the Palestinian population. Thus, to an outside observer it looks like tit-for-tat violence. Suicide bombings by Palestinian terrorists beget targeted assassinations with collateral damage carried out by Israeli forces.

I certainly don't believe that we should allow suicide bombers to carry out their missions "because we hold lofty ideas about peace, freedom, tolerance and because we mistrust our government." I proceed from two considerations: morality and utility. I think it is morally wrong to inflict gratuitous violence on the innocent. I think you agree with me on this point. I also think it is counterproductive to inflict gratuitous violence on a civilian population, because it inflames public opinion and breeds resentment. I think you probably agree with me about this, too. So what do we disagree about, really? Well, beyond our disagreement over the appropriate level of force to be used in neutralizing an immediate threat, we might disagree about terrorism itself. I want to think about terrorism as a crime, thus subject to all the usual measures deployed against criminals and all the usual procedural safeguards associated with the rule of law. It seems to me that you think of terrorism differently, that for you it is not an ordinary crime and cannot be treated as such. Rather, it seems to me that you view terrorism more as a form of warfare. Thus, the usual procedures associated with the rule of law don't apply. The threat is greater, thus the response must be more aggressive.

There has been a lot of talk about "the war on terror" in my country since 9-11. I suppose my suspicion of this sort of talk stems from what the Bush administration has used it to justify. I know, of course, that Israel is not the US and that we in North America don't live under the same threat. That makes a difference. I'm happy to engage in a philosophical discussion with you, but I'm not about to judge Israeli policy. Still, as a political theorist and an student of politics I am alarmed by how quickly a nation like my own, one with a long tradition of support for civil liberties, seems only too ready to toss habeas corpus and procedural due process overboard in the name of fighting terrorism. Fear of the terrorist threat, however justified it may be, appears to be having a corrosive effect on the American civic culture. I have to wonder if it might not have a similar effect elsewhere.

Nothing I say here or in my previous messages should be interpreted as expressing disapproval of your position on targeted assassinations or terrorism generally. I know you to be a morally serious person and what I've read in your reports convinces me that you've spent a lot more time pondering these questions than I have. And in the final analysis, we're not really so very far apart.



Dear Steve,

Thank you for this explanatory message which clarified many issues. Indeed, we are not that far apart. I think we agree on most issues. The only place where our views differ is on the essence of terrorism, whether it is more like an ordinary crime, or a form of warfare.

Well, terrorism is certainly NOT ordinary. It is anything but ordinary. Its entire reason d'etre is to break the rules of the game, to reinvent reality. To destroy. Then you might challenge and ask: OK. It is not ordinary crime. Maybe it is unordinary crime. Say like a serial killer. I recently saw a film on Ted Bundy. His cruelty and lack of respect and sensitivity to human life certainly resembles those of terrorists. The motivations, however, are different. He was carrying his terrible deeds for mere animal (or animal like) satisfaction. Terrorists have political objectives and aspirations. They wish to destroy a land, a people; to transform society. Some of them believe that violence has cleansing effect. It purifies them, their souls, their well being. When terrorism is carried on a mass scale, being part of your daily life for a long period of time, it does make an effect. You feel under attack.

People are unable to understand what this really means until the point when they actually live under such circumstances. It is like in many important events of your life. One will not be able to understand what does it mean to be a father until actually practicing fatherhood. One does not understand the full meaning of being an orphan until one becomes an orphan, etc. I have been living all my life under the threat of terror, but it seems that all that took place before 1993 was different. Since 1993 the entire Israel is one front. Everyone is a possible target. The fact that terrorism is random makes all of us potential victims. Again, this distinctive characteristic of terror should be distinguished from criminal acts that have designated targets. During Bundy's time, young females had something to worry about. But the rest of the population was safe. In a state of terror you are constantly under siege. Under stress. You can expect the worse to come from anywhere. Again, I don't think that you will be able to understand this until living under such a situation. I see people here in Baltimore. Their lives are very different from the life of an average Israeli. Tranquility. We don't know this concept in Israel. We don't live it.

All best,


Exchange with M.

29 March 2004

Hi Rafi,

It's always good to read your bulletins. Thanks.

This time though I really am alarmed about your assertions relating to the legitimacy of targetted assassinations. You jump from the claim of right to self defence, which nobody would disagree with, to a blanket acceptance of what is basically preemptive killings. I start from the basis that there is a legal, moral and ethical problem in a policy of targetted assassinations. In your paragraph on this subject you did not bridge between the generic inalienable right of self defence, and the specific of how it is done. I would be interested to read your exploration of the topic. I am not totally opposed to some limited actions but I find it difficult to accept that targetted assassinations can be carried out as a matter of political whim. I start from the perspective of the legal norms in a democratic society. Universally self defence is permitted in certain situations but the degree of force applied must be strictly limited to the needs of the specific situation. Appropriate force is the legal standard. Self defence is not allowed in most judicial systems as a defence for murder unless there is a direct and specific life threatening event about to occur. Even a New York policeman is not allowed to shoot dead the worst and most vicious of Mafia hit men unless his life is directly threatened at the time. Al Capone was public enemy number one in the USA but the FBI did not undertake an assassination and take him out by what would have been illegal means, they waited until they got the evidence on him for tax evasion and put him away legally according to the due process of the law. If this is the norm inside a sovereign country how can it not also be the case for international law?

I have never seen a good rigorously argued intellectual consideration of this issue. As horrific as the crimes of Ayash and his ilk are I instinctively recoil totally against the notion that political leaders can order assassinations without some kind of due process. This is no more than an extension of the "might is right" contention and civilised societies do not buy that argument. Surely humanity has long since abandoned the law of the jungle?

And for my money you put altogether too much blind trust into the veracity of the claims made by the intelligence services about the hard information they have uncovered. And there is no accountability in anything they do. Goodness gracious, there are so many examples of where the intelligence agencies, in Israel and elsewhere, have been 100% wrong in their assessments and findings. And these are just the ones we know about publicly. What about all the intelligence reports that have never seen the light of day? Just look at the whole WMD fiasco in Iraq. As layman I and millions of others was sure there were no WMD in Iraq yet the whole world was sold the pup that there was in order to justify a political war based on "intelligence." Some intelligence! Even the recent inquiry by Yuval Steinitz has shown that the Israeli agencies got it wrong on Iraq and Libya. These were situations of potential existential threat to the whole future of the State of Israel. There could never be any kind of higher priority for intelligence gathering - yet they got it wrong! I am afraid given that reality I can place no confidence whatsoever in the accuracy and reliability of intelligence reports, certainly not when they are being used to justify assassination.

As you might gather this issue really troubles me. When democratic systems allow themselves to be governed by the same standards that we condemn in the dictator and tyrant states we threaten our democratic existence more than the terrorists themselves. No terrorist or suicide bomber, or thousands of them, will ever be able to destroy Israel, or the USA, or the UK, or whatever country you like to name, but the structure and rule of law in our own societies can be so corrupted by our own actions that we could well destroy ourselves. We cannot save ourselves or our way of life by sinking to the morality of those who would destroy us.

I hope you do not misunderstand me. I have no objection whatsoever to the invoking of the doctrine of self defence, by Israel or any other country. That is not the question.

The question is how the doctrine is applied, and under what circumstances, and what is the appropriate use of force and limits that must apply in order that self defense can be legal in international law.


Hi M.,

Thanks for your concerns. Let me TRY to answer.

I acknowledge there are legal and moral problems involved in the policy of targeted assassination. I object to its being carried out as a matter of political whim. God forbid. I agree with you that self defence is permitted in certain situations and that the degree of force applied must be strictly limited to the needs of the specific situation. I said that targeted killing is permissible ONLY in two situations: ticking bombs (do you have problem with this?) and in cases like Yichye Ayash. That's it. No more.

Now we don't have any other source to rely upon but our intelligence. I can appreciate your reservations, but if someone is on its way to carry a suicide attack, I think we need to rely on the information we have and stop him/her. As for the suicide planning side, luckily there are not many Ayashes around, and with regard to them the likelihood of misinformation is quite limited.

With all due respect, the Capone example is not really in order here. We are not talking about mere criminals. We are talking of mass murderers.

I say time and again that the decision should stem from the military leadership, and the approval should be made by politicians. This is the right order of things. Of course this is not a recipe for political assassinations. Hence my objection to Yassin's assassination.

I hope I made myself somewhat clearer. I am not a pacifist and firmly believe we have the right to defend ourselves against terrorists. We should not be like them, nor do I think we are like them when we take such measures. This is war and in war times harsh measures may be taken. I am unsure whether I convinced you. We are entitled to disagree sometimes. Otherwise our discussions might be boring...

All the very best,


Sent: Tuesday, March 30, 2004 4:23 PM
Subject: RE: Politics: March 2004

Hi Rafi,

Yes, it is good that we can exchange robust views. I enjoy the cut and thrust of good debate when carried out in learning spirit.

I am inclined to accept that ticking bombs can be targeted. But we still need to address three questions in relation to that:

1. What is the definition of a “ticking bomb?”

2. How to identify a “ticking bomb.” This brings us right back to the issue of the reliability of intelligence.

3. Even if we accept that the intelligence is correct how do we go about eliminating the ticking bomb?

With regard to point (2) I am afraid there are just too many examples of wrong intelligence for me to be convinced. I don’t have actual statistics but anecdotally it is clear from newspaper reports that the incidence of assassination attempts when the target was not even where he was supposed to be is convincing proof that intelligence is woefully inadequate. These cases are of course by definition not usually ticking bombs so according to my understanding of your view both of us agree that they should not have been targets anyway. But my point is that the intelligence failure is what we can learn from such incidents. This makes it doubly a problem to accept that the intelligence can be right even in ticking bomb situations.

I was interested in your wording. You wrote “…if someone is on its way to carry a suicide attack,…” I 100% agree that in this situation a preemptive strike should be attempted. But there is a kind of circular reasoning assumption in your statement. It all depends on the word “if.” The only way we know whether or not a ticking bomb is on its way is through intelligence. So we cannot give carte blanche to the security agencies. I cannot accept this.

In regard to Ayash I am not sure. If he was the master terrorist bomb maker that we all thought he was then he should be arrested and sent to trial. These kinds of guys should be the subject of dead or alive arrest warrants, preferably of an international stature, and hunted down. If in the process they resist arrest they can be shot. In my opinion that is the legal way to do it! ( I am simplifying for the sake of brevity here.)

Again from a pragmatic point of view what was the advantage to Israel of assassinating Ayash? All that happened was the unleashing of an even worse regime of terror than what had gone on before. Getting rid of Ayash achieved nothing in practical terms. Others replaced him and the bombings got worse.

On your point about the military leadership: It has become far too politicized. Why should they be trusted on these matters? They have committed too many failures already.

I think you dismiss too lightly my Al Capone example. It may not be 100% apposite but the principle is valid in my opinion. Looking at the moral and legal issues what is the difference between a mafia hit man and a mass murderer (terrorist)? Where is the line of unacceptability drawn if we accept that one dead is not mass murder? Is it two people dead? Or 5, or 10, or 20? Or take another case, what about Timothy McVeigh? If the US law enforcement agencies had knowledge of what he was planning to do would they have been legally permitted to assassinate him? No they would not. A warrant would have been issued for his arrest.

In civilised societies it is not permissible to assassinate someone for their intention. This principle of law and justice applies not only in capital cases of course. A criminal cannot be tried and punished for his “intention” to rob a bank. If a conspiracy can be proved that is another matter of course, but it requires due process.

It is the issue of the absence of due process that really I find objectionable. If an acceptable international system existed based on universal conventions then most of my objections would disappear. In the absence of international due process then at the very least each state that invokes the right of self-defence should have a transparent process.

Back to the question of ticking bombs. I think we have been manipulated on this one. How many true ticking bomb assassinations have there been? I may be wrong on this but if a terrorist is literally on his way with an explosive belt around his waste, and he is fired upon by a rocket or whatever, surely the explosion would be so great as to show without any shadow of a doubt that he was carrying explosives. Thinking back over the years there have been virtually zero reports of such situations occurring. I acknowledge completely that there has been numerous incidents where ticking bombs have exploded themselves when on the verge of detection, or where there were premature detonations, but the fact that these have happened only proves my basic point that the intelligence failed. If accurate intelligence had been obtained the bomber would never had gotten near his target.

I repeat that I do not think we are far apart in our thinking on the issue of right to self-defence and that in war horrible things must be done. The self-defence issue is a red herring. Nobody argues against that. The issue is solely what is permissible in the name of self-defence? When self-defence is invoked it is not a licence to kill without constraint. It’s analogous to the argument over the wall. The proponents argue that it is for the self-defence of Israel. There is nothing wrong with that argument but it is not a justification for building the wall on Palestinian land, or semantically “disputed territory.” The right-wing hawks conflate the argument which is a fraudulent technique for deflecting criticism and avoiding scrutiny of their objectives and motives.

To summarise my view I want to be a supporter of the right to prevent suicide attackers to the maximum extent possible. But I want to see a process that protects the ethical values upon which western democracies are founded.

Let’s continue.


Hi M.,

Again, the comparison with McVeigh is the wrong one to make. Osama is the better comparison and more to the point. If the US authorities would believe that McVeigh was surrounded by armed men, they would have no remorse.

All best,


Hi Rafi,

I was not trying to draw a parallel between McVeigh and bin Laden. That is not the appropriate connection. The examples I was trying to construct were in relation to the generic issue of targeted assassinations of individuals based on the Palestinian context.

As I said in my email earlier today, if a proper process of issuing a warrant for the dead or alive capture of a suspected terrorist then I have no problem with force being used to capture him. If he offers armed resistance and is killed in the process then so be it.

Your question about butchering people in the mountains of Afghanistan is an interesting one. I think there is a moral and legal argument against it but there is such universal weight of international opinion that holds bin Laden accountable for 9/11, and other atrocities, coupled with the fact that he has basically in his own words admitted it all publicly, that I think this meets my test of reasonable due process. So yes, I support the attempt to capture bin Laden by any means. I do not think by any stretch of the imagination this situation pertains to the targettes killings in the Palestinian territories.

Cheers Rafi.

Hi M.,

I know you were not trying to draw a parallel between McVeigh and bin Laden. It is me who say that a suitable comparison is the one between Osama and Ayash / Deff. You may disagree. The only difference is of scale. They are (Ayash was) butchers who don't care for human lives, once they identify "an enemy".

You have far more respect for the American justice system than I do. I think that people here have a very light finger on guns, much lighter than in Israel. This is true for all people concerned: law enforcement, criminals, ordinary citizens. I think that our justice system is not inferior to the American. I am very happy that we don't have capital punishment, and that we have a very different policy on gun control.

Anyway, we should not try to be American. We have our own problems and we have to devise ways to cope with them. A blanket prohibition on targeted assassinations will disserve our security and well-being.

As ever,

31 March 2004

Hi Rafi,

As I said, the conversation has clarified that mostly we are not too far apart. However, one point I wanted to mention is that I do see a difference between bin Laden and the Ayash types, and it is not just a matter of semantics in my view. At it’s heart the Palestinian conflict with Israel is about a people seeking self-determination and political independence. Osama cannot and does not make that claim in justification of his activities. At this point I am not arguing that this justifies the Palestinian suicide tactics but it does mean that the two situations are not on all fours.

And BTW, I am less worried about the killing of Ayash because it was precisely targeted and the risk of innocents being killed was virtually zero.


Hi M.,

As far as I understand bin-Laden's logic, the war he wages is precisely about self-determination and political independence. He believes the Muslims should struggle against western domination and clear the way for Islam. As long as the West, represented first and foremost by the big Satan, is controlling the events, the Muslims will not be able to prosper and advance.

Do you agree that Israel has every right to seek and kill Deff, Ayash's successor?

As ever,

I still think there is a big difference. In fact I do not remember Osama saying anything about self-determination in any of his diatribes. And what political independence? He does not speak for any sovereign state, or embryonic State, and does not purport to do so. In fact he has launched operations against Arab/Muslim states as well as the West. Osama seems to be on some kind of Islamic “crusade” not one of seeking self-determination for a nation of people. If anything he fits the description of Huntington's clash of civilizations. The foundation of Osama is religious not political. He speaks on behalf of Islam, although most of Islam does not embrace him.

As to Deff. I come back to my basic concern, what and where is the evidence? If there is any that passes the test of validity a warrant should be issued for his arrest. He should then be arrested. If he resists arrest in a shoot out he should suffer the consequences.

I also ask you the question again, after Deff, what then? Do you think his arrest or death will stop the bombs being made?


Hi M.,

Osama does not seek political self-determination but religious self-determination. I completely agree with your observations, which do not contradict mine. You were thinking that I was interpreting Osama in a political way. No. I did not. I should have written "religio-political independence", an independent framework in a certain territory in which he could exercise Islam as he sees. Look at my sentences again but this time not with a vision of a state but rather with a vision of clash between religions.

I am reluctant to speak of Huntington. I find him too simplistic. The general idea is correct, but I desire more complex argument.

In my next Newsletter I will publish a book review of Paul Berman's most recent book. This will provide further insight and depth to understanding.

As for Deff: The guy is surrounded by many gun men. What do you mean: issue an arrest. You speak as we are talking of two civilized societies, with an Interpol agreement. This is not the case. To have him arrested as you wish will cost many lives. I am sorry. I cannot endorse this. Deff is responsible for the death of dozens of Israelis. Ample evidence is available re his involvement in master-minding dozens of attacks. What will happen after him? There will be another chief of operations, as Deff succeeded Ayash. This does not mean that we should stand idly by and let him plan the next murder. We have the right to self-defence. I agree all this will not solve our problem. The solution is political, around the negotiation table. But with whom can we negotiate at this point? Arafat does not wish to deliver peace. As long as this is the case, bloodshed will continue and what we can do is to try to minimize harm.

Happy festive season,

5 April 2004

Hi M.,
I wish to relate to some of your last statements.

First, it seems to me that Osama is looking for religio-political independence. Indeed, the entire world is the arena, not a specific piece of land. I agree with you on this. Still, he is seeking independence from Western-Judeo-Christian culture.

Second, his mistrust of the Israeli intelligence equals your mistrust of the American? of the New Zealand? etc? That is, do you have genuine, healthy mistrust of ANY intelligence, or just the Israeli?

I assume being a liberal you mistrust ALL security forces. I share your mistrust, but when we speak of issues of life and death, one needs to rely upon something. I don't take as face value all that they are saying. I criss-cross information, use my sources, try to verify info., scrutinize and criticize. For all I know, Deff is heavily involved in terror operations.

As for Ayash, like you I am not sure whether there were less killing after his death. I repeat: we have the right to defend ourselves. He deserved death, being the messenger of death for many years. I have no mercy or pity on him.

Unlike you, I have no trust left in Arafat. He lost any shred of credibility. We need to wait until he steps down from the stage of history. He caused enough damage to all people concerned, first and foremost to his own.

I thought it is clear from my previous communications that I do not endorse many of the attacks on Gaza. I reiterate: Targeted assassinations are justified only when ticking bombs and chiefs of operations are concerned. Hence I do not condone many of the attacks on people in the occupied territories. They have been far too frequent, used in a very permissive and uncaring way.

May I wish you and your family the best for this festive season,

6 April 2004

Hi Rafi,

As I said before, we are close on many aspects of this conversation.

In regard to Osama it seems we are the same but different. Maybe it is semantic. At his core I do not see him as a “political” actor therefore I do not like applying this word. As for independence, he is already independent. He is not “free” because the West is after him, but he certainly is independent. In some ways he is the Islamic version of the Crusades. I think characterizing him as the equivalent of some heroic leader championing the cause of his oppressed people struggling for their right of self-determination is a travesty.

It is not just Israeli intelligence that I mistrust. It is obvious to all that the Americans got it completely wrong as far as Iraqi WMD is concerned. Although I admit that at this juncture it is hard to know for sure whether or not the false claims were totally the fault of bad intelligence or deliberate political distortion, or both.

I am not that naive that I expect it should be the norm that in the world of intelligence gathering it is possible to be always 100% right. My point is that if we are going to allow that some non-judicial, political, unaccountable, process is going to use intelligence as the basis for assassinating someone then in those circumstances it has to be 100% correct. We are talking about what should be the norms in the civilised world. The civilised nations cannot in the end defend their societies by themselves becoming uncivilized. Once we take one step down that road where does it end? I am talking about my right as a citizen to be protected from such transgressions because once they are allowed to be justified on one pretext, nothing can stop them from being invoked on others. It becomes the “slippery slope.”

And as I said previously, if one group can justify it on grounds that meet their own internal tests of what is or is not acceptable then that group has no right to expect the other side to be any different.

This of course leaves aside part of the discussion we have already had about what ought to be the only grounds for targeted assassinations in the first place. We obviously agree on the ticking bombs case. But if the IDF knows someone is a ticking bomb, why not arrest him? If he resists shoot him. Obviously the IDF must know where he is or otherwise he could not be targeted anyway.

As to the case of the Chiefs of operations, let me accept your assessment of Deff. I am still deeply worried by the fact that this constitutes a death sentence. This is exactly the same kind of reasoning that allowed Yigal Amir, and those who supported him (of whom there are still many), to justify the killing of Rabin. Despite your misgivings about the possible loss of life, I am of the view that these kinds of guys should be arrested. It is not difficult for well–trained commanders and troop to mount a mission to arrest a suspect. After all, one thing the intelligence has been able to do with something better than a 50% average is locate the suspects they want to assassinate. If they can do that and fire a rocket at the right spot, then what is to stop them sending a squad, or even a company, to surround the location. All the innocent civilians can be warned to leave the area and the suspects invited to give themselves up. If they do not and resist violently then they suffer the consequences of a ‘dead or alive’ arrest warrant. This is the right way, philosophically, morally, and legally. Would the IDF or the Israeli police have assassinated Baruch Goldstein if they had known what his intentions were?

I was interested to watch a BBC documentary last night on the Rwanda genocide. What a horrific and unforgivable tragedy. Unforgivable mainly because the West and the UN ignored what was happening before their very eyes. Despite the “never again” mantras following the holocaust and the fine words that accompanied the UN Convention on Genocide it was all hollow. There was no political will. And the same is now happening in the Sudan. Why Baghdad and not Khartoum? But my point is that in the BBC programme there was a wonderful interview with a Lieutenant who was Commander of a Belgian military unit. He had discovered the training programmes and arms caches of the Hutu militia in preparation for their campaign of killing. This Lieutenant sent a recommendation to the UN for a military raid to seize all the arms and destroy the training camps. Permission was denied because the great powers, especially the USA and the UK, did not want a repeat of Somalia. The Belgian Lieutenant was disgusted and humiliated as a professional soldier. The interviewer asked him was he not afraid that the same thing might happen to his troops as happened to the US Marines in Somalia? His reply was that he was a soldier, and that being a soldier meant that at times one had to put oneself in harms way and risk life. There is no other option, he said, for a soldier it comes with the territory. This man was a true warrior hero, he knew there was a mission to be performed for humanitarian reasons and he was willing to do it.

You mention again that Israel has a right to defend itself. There is no disagreement between us on that point. But as I think we have already also agreed a right to self-defence does not mean open slather. There has to be limits, and it seems that we both agree on this, so what we are trying to do in this conversation is determine what are those limits.

It looks as though we will not agree on Arafat. We do agree that he is a hopeless leader, and in some ways a despicable man, but that does not address the substance of the debate. Is he the only one who is like that in this terrible situation? I cannot think of anything more fatuous in the current context than planning a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which you originally proposed, and simply leaving a power vacuum there. The only way of avoiding that is by bringing Arafat into the equation – somehow.

Yes, you did make the point previously that you disagreed with the attacks on Gaza. I guess I was a bit clumsy in what I wrote on that. I was really asking rhetorically for how the rational on that made sense. Obviously I realize that it does not and that the whole sorry mess in Gaza has simply been for political mileage.

The same goes for the targeted assassination. They are purely for the political psychology and that is the worst of all reasons for killing people, no matter who they are. At the end of the day what are the political gains anyway? Zero. The killings have occurred that’s a fact, how many hundreds of them, including the chiefs of operations, and Sharon is still dropping in the polls.

All the best.


Hi M.

It seems you are taking "politics" too literally, as someone who is only active in politics in the political corridors. My reading of "politics" is much broader than yours. You can be a religious leader and be active in politics. Ovadya Yoseph is a very important political figure in Israel. So was Khomeini even before his return to Iran. So is Osama. And as far as HE is concerned, I don't think he sees himself independent and free. I don't think he saw himself independent and free also before Sept. 11. The constraints of western civilization are very burdensome to him. Again, I think this point will be clarified by my book review of Berman, to be published in my April issue.

I am glad to hear you don't mistrust ONLY the Israeli intelligence. We are all human, hence prone to error. Some people can make error sometimes. I hope you agree with me that it defies logic to think that all people are making errors all the time. So if different sources are all pointing the same people, first Ayash, now Deff, as the principal chiefs of terror, than they deserve to die by the sword on which they live. They cannot ask immunity under international order and law. Deff treats with contempt both in his daily activities. We are not saints. We don't believe in turning our backs to the person who wishes to kill us and say: By all means.

Again, you ask: Why not arrest him? Because it is very costly. Because it is not easy. Because to send an elite unit to capture Deff will cost lots of lives, ours and theirs. Knowing you I believe that were you in charge, you would also send an apache. You will agree that it is relatively easy to sit comfortably away from the decision making junction and criticize. Were you the commander in charge, who needs to send the young soldiers to such a mission, and then face their grieving families, you might think differently.

I don't really understand the comparison with Amir. Was Rabin a terrorist?

Goldstein is a better comparison. If the security forces would know what he was about to do on the morning of that horrific day of 25 February 1994, I believe they would try to stop him by whatever means, including killing him. With Deff we are sure he will shot, and so will his body guards. There will be lots of blood shed on both sides.

I am sorry but I disagree with you that targeted assassinations are merely for political psychology reasons. I fail to understand why you think Israel does not have a right to kill the chief of operations of the Hamas and let him continue sending suicide murderers to kill us. Granted he will have a successor. With this reasoning why to fight against crime? There will always be new criminals. Why to stop serial killers? There will always be new serial killers. We can stretch this logic to other spheres of life: Why washing ourselves? We will always get dirty.

I have bad feelings re our upcoming Independence Day. I fear they are planning evil. Please take care.

Warm regards, as ever,

9 April 2004

Hi Rafi,

In regard to Osama I have tried to think of a wider meaning that we can usefully give to “political” but I still feel that what you are suggesting gives an incorrect characterization of what Osama is all about. Whether that is a danger, or problematic, or not I cannot really say but what I am seeking to do is describe him in an accurate way so that we can avoid giving him some kind of equivalence with a national leader, such as Arafat, at the head of a liberation struggle for a nation of people. No matter what one might think of Arafat personally there is a legitimacy to the underlying cause of independence for the Palestinian people. Whatever label you might put on Osama there is absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever underlying his actions. I think Michael Gross actually makes this point very well:

Al Qaeda lacks affiliation to any national cause that can provide any basis for casus belli or self-defense, has no political leaders to speak of, nor seeks political compromise or accommodation.[i][i]

Their operatives(al Qaeda) cannot claim, as ordinary soldiers sometimes can, that they are materially innocent. …, justice and innocence in war depends upon a recognized political cause that Al Qaeda does not possess thereby undermining any claim of moral innocence

In my view there is no comparison between Ovadia Yosef and Osama. I agree that religious leaders often use politics as a way of furthering the interests of their communities, and vice versa, and that is an interesting subject in itself on which I have fairly firm opposing views. But there is a world of moral and legal difference between a religious leader who operates within the law as part of the institutional framework of political governance in a sovereign country and one, like Osama, who operates totally outside the law and in violation of all international conventions. It is not useful in my opinion to equate these two situations.

Of course I agree with you when you state that it defies logic to think that all people are making error all the time. But by the same token it is not logical to say that simply because the various intelligence services agree on something that it is guaranteed to be correct. We cannot get around the moral and legal argument about what is a legitimate basis on which an assassination can be ordered. That is why I maintain that even if we concede a high degree of accuracy to the intelligence assessments the only proper course of action is to arrest the suspect, or at least attempt to do so. I hear very well what you are saying about risks of mounting an arrest mission. In practical terms I cannot agree with your conclusion. And of course it is not that I am impervious to the thought of lives being lost. The whole of my personal and religious belief is founded on abhorrence of violence and killing. The only question is what is the quickest and most sure way of getting to the point of having the killing stop. So Rafi I think your jibe about “sit(ting) comfortably away” is a little unfair. I simply reference again the comment of the Belgian Lieutenant in the Rwanda story. That was not my view as an armchair criticism it was his view as a serving commander of men. And I think that your objection is rebutted by the fact that the IDF in fact carries out many insurgencies, often without even a specific arrest intent in mind. In many of these missions there has been significant loss of life. If it can be justified in those cases, and the risks are assessed as acceptable, then obviously it can be justified for the case of arresting a ticking bomb or a terror planner like Ayash. Just yesterday the IDF intercepted an alleged female suicide bomber on her way to an attack. There was no loss of life involved.

In any case there have been some instances of horrific losses of innocent lives when rocket fire has been used to assassinate a suspect. Sometimes it has even happened where innocents, including children, have been killed and later it was discovered that the target was not even there at the time. Presumably in these cases there was unanimity in the assessment of the security chiefs, so even when they agree they are proven to still be wrong. In this I do not agree with Michael Gross when he says that targeted assassinations are clinical, theoretically yes, but mostly in practice no. I do not think there has been one case of a “successful” assassination where there has not been a minimum of two other deaths. Maybe Ayash was the only one because it was his booby-trapped cell phone that killed him.

As we continue to discuss these issues I note that you often insert phrases like “self defence,” and “They cannot ask immunity under international order and law.” Rafi, these are kind of straw man arguments. We have no disagreement between us on the right to self-defence, and never have I suggested such immunity. There should be an accountability and consequences for the actions of these bad guys, but it has to be within acceptable boundaries. At the end of the day the side that has moral superiority will win, and it is entirely feasible that it will do so with less loss of life, on both sides, than would have otherwise occurred.

Regarding Rabin, yes of course, the argument of Amir and those who support him was that Rabin, because of his peace policies, was the cause of Jewish deaths and therefore he was a legitimate target. If I recall correctly there was the pronouncement of the Jewish curse of din rodef’by certain rabbis that gave legitimacy to Amir’s plan and action. Rabin was defined as “one who is coming to kill me” and on that basis pre-emptive, extra juridical killing was justified.

I am afraid there is no evidence at all to suggest that the Israeli security forces would have pre-emptively killed Baruch Goldstein. I hope you are right that they would have tried to stop him. You may be right also about Deff, in that any attempt to arrest him will cause loss of life. But as long as he is given the opportunity to surrender himself for arrest then I have no problem with that. If he and his bodyguards resist with violent force and are killed in a fire-fight then that is legitimate.

If we agree that assassinations do not stop the suicide attacks, and for the sake of argument I accept your assertion that they are not for political psychological reasons, then why are they undertaken? If they do not stop the attacks then we cannot invoke self-defence as the rationale. The only reason left that you have adduced is punitive, for revenge. Surely that is not a moral or legal justification that one can accept. I think Michael Gross deals with this issue quite effectively. He also deals with the wider issue of the serious deleterious effects on both sides from an assassination policy.

The way I see it there is no symmetry between, say, fighting crime, and assassination as a means to stop terror. Obviously any society should fight crime and terror. But the fight should be conducted within the bounds of law and morality. The motivations for crime are not parallel in any way to the motivations that cause terror. It is possible through enlightened methods to reduce or eliminate terror. Northern Ireland is a proof. Once meaningful political negotiations were undertaken that led to some concrete achievements violence virtually ceased in Northern Ireland. Since the Good Friday agreement my recollection is that there has been only one relatively minor terror incident in Northern Ireland. A period of 4 years virtually without death! So despite the continuing difficulties and deficiencies of the Good Friday agreement it has resulted in a complete change and avoidance of loss of many lives. With crime it is obviously different. There is no way to completely eliminate criminals as a class because there is no common bond that binds them in the same way as political convictions and philosophies bind together groups seeking self determination and the restoration of their real or perceived loss of human and civil rights.

I don’t venture to suggest that the Northern Ireland experience can be directly and exactly transplanted into the Middle East. There are differences for sure, but they are only of degree and I am convinced that a similar enlightened approach on the political and diplomatic front could achieve similar results in significantly reducing the loss of life. What we have in Israel/Palestine is not the lack of opportunity but the lack of political will.

We stop serial killers because it’s right to do so and their capture does not necessarily result in one taking their place. And we capture them we don’t shoot them (unless they resist). We wash ourselves regularly because by doing so we increase our standard of hygiene and health, and thus prolong our productive lives. No, I do not see that we can stretch the argument.

I hear what you say about Independence Day. Of course I hope your premonitions are wrong but we are certainly taking the best precautions we can.

I hope you have had a happy Pesach and can enjoy the Easter weekend break, at least as some time off to spend with your family.


12 April 2004

Hi M.,

I think the debate is now moving in circles. Here are my last comments. Let us remain in disagreement on some of the issues. And let us remain friends.

The comparison between Osama and Ovadya Yoseph was ONLY in a sense that we have two individuals who are using religion as a pretext to influence and change politics.

I think targeted assassinations are potentially more clinical than sending troops to capture terrorists as you suggest. Potentially more people on both sides will be killed if Israel exercises this at the expense of assassinations. Also more innocent bystanders are likely to be killed in such raids. Again, if I were the commander who has to decide between sending a platoon into the terrorist land and sending an Apache, I will opt for the latter.

The fact that some people viewed Rabin as a traitor who deserves death does not mean he was a terrorist, even according to those people. Even were they to claim he was a terrorist, this alone does not make him one. A person is judged by his actions, and to the best of my analysis Rabin was many things but not a terrorist.

I think Israel is justified in assassinating Deff not only for punitive reasons, but also for self-defence. He is dedicating his life to the destruction of Israel. Granted that he will have a successor, possibly who will do a better terrorist work than Deff, this does not mean that we should stand idly by and let him organize more death campaigns. Here the right to self-defence is most appropriate.

We are able to conduct the fights you speak about, "within the bounds of law and morality" if and only if the rival is doing the same. People like Deff make such a fight within such bounds impossible. The fallacy of many liberals is that they judge the other in their own eyes, and desires. This attitude opens the gate wide for the destruction of democracy. Indeed, one of the main problems of democracy is that it lacks experience in dealing with people who are exploiting the assets of democracy to undermine it and to bring about its destruction. We try to preserve our values in the face of brutal people who have little conscience. While we wish to retain our dignity and values, they exploit our liberal thinking and mock our values. We have to acknowledge that it is not a fair game, in fair bounds of democratic participation. We have to apply different standards and rules when dealing with such ruthless people, or we fall at their vanishing mercy.

Unfortunately we are yet to reach the circumstances of Good Friday in Northern Ireland. Very little good prevails in the Palestinian Authority. I don't need to remind you of Camp David 2000. Then there was political will in Israel. No such will existed in the Palestinian camp. Israel is still facing the same brutal leader who fooled us for some time but will never regain our trust.

With my very best wishes and hopes for peace and tranquility,


PA Financing of Terror

That Yasser Arafat sponsors terror is hardly piece of news. A recent article by Nir Boms & Erick Stakelbeck sheds some light on this, and I would like to share with you some excerpts.

On April 1, 2004 following a lengthy probe, the European Union concluded that funds it provided to the Palestinian Authority between 2000 and 2002 had not been used to finance terrorist attacks against Israel. The ruling was immediately criticized by a number of European lawmakers as an undeserved vindication of PA chairman Yasser Arafat, and rightly so.

The latest evidence of Arafat's long-running financial support for Palestinian terrorism came last week, when reports surfaced that Raad Mansur, a former high-ranking member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade (the military wing of Arafat's Fatah movement) had confessed to Israeli security officials that Arafat supplied him with funds that were used to buy weapons and carry out attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank.

Whether these funds came from the European Union — the PA's largest donor — is difficult to say. But it is clear that Arafat continues to use foreign aid to finance and direct terrorist activities against Israel. The money certainly isn't reaching its intended target: the Palestinian people, who, despite receiving over $4 billion in international aid since the Oslo Accords of 1993, continue to live in a perpetual state of poverty. Indeed, 60 percent of the annual Palestinian budget comes from foreign aid, millions of which Arafat stashes away in secret bank accounts.

To shed greater light on Arafat's corrupt stewardship of the PA, in February, U.S. congressman Spencer Bacchus (R., Ala.) and the House Financial Services Committee invited several individuals familiar with the inner workings of the Palestinian banking system to take part in a hearing on corruption and terrorist financing within the Palestinian Authority.

Sharon-Bush Meeting

On 14 April Sharon met with W. Bush in Washington. That Bush accepted Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza is hardly surprising. I would have liked him to pose some questions regarding the fence. However, Bush seemed unconcerned, uninvolved, uncaring. As if he was saying: let those Jews and Palestinians kill one another. Why should I care? There are other, more important things on my mind.

I find myself in agreement with a concluding paragraph of an article titled "Settlements Over Peace", published in the NY Times on 15 April:

Mr. Bush's desire to give Mr. Sharon a prize for pledging to withdraw from Gaza will compromise any subsequent attempts by Washington to broker a lasting settlement, to put it mildly. Palestinians and moderate Arab nations — as well as the European allies, for that matter — are furious that Mr. Bush acceded to Mr. Sharon's demands.

Bush can no longer present himself as an honest and fair broker.

Sharon's Disengagement Plan

This is Sharon's Plan, as published in Haaretz (16 April 2004)

I. Overview

Israel is committed to the peace process, and aspires to reach a mutual agreement on the basis of two states for two peoples, the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, as part of the realization of President [George W.] Bush's vision.

Israel believes that it must act to improve the current reality. Israel has come to the conclusion that at present, there is no Palestinian partner with whom it is possible to make progress on a bilateral agreement. In light of this, a unilateral disengagement plan has been formulated, which is based on the following considerations:

A. The stagnation inherent in the current situation is harmful. In order to emerge from this stagnation, Israel must initiate a move that will not be contingent on Palestinian cooperation.

B. The plan will lead to a better security reality, at least in the long term.

C. In any future final-status agreement, there will be no Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip. However, it is clear that in Judea and Samaria, some areas will remain part of the state of Israel, among them civilian settlements, military zones and places where Israel has additional interests.

D. The exit from the Gaza Strip and from the area of northern Samaria (four settlements and military installations in their environs) will reduce friction with the Palestinian population and has the potential to improve the fabric of Palestinian life and the Palestinian economy.

E. Israel hopes that the Palestinians will have the sense to take advantage of the disengagement move in order to exit the cycle of violence and rejoin the process of dialogue.

F. The disengagement move will obviate the claims about Israel with regard to its responsibility for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

G. The disengagement move does not detract from the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. The existing arrangements will continue to prevail.

When there is evidence on the Palestinian side of the willingness, ability and actual realization of a fight against terror and of the implementation of the reforms stipulated in the road map, it will be possible to return to the track of negotiations and dialogue.

II. Main points of the plan

A. The Gaza Strip

1.Israel will evacuate the Gaza Strip, including all the Israeli settlements currently existing there, and will redeploy outside the territory of the Strip. This, apart from military deployment along the border line between the Gaza Strip and Egypt ("Philadelphi Route"), will be detailed below.

2. Upon completion of the move, no permanent Israeli civilian or military presence in the areas that are evacuated in the continental expanse of the Gaza Strip will remain.

As a result, there will be no basis for the claim that the Gaza Strip is occupied territory.

B. Judea and Samaria

1. Israel will evacuate the area of northern Samaria (Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sa-Nur) and all the permanent military installations in this area, and will redeploy outside the evacuated area.

2. Upon completion of the move, no permanent presence of Israeli military forces and Israeli civilians in the area of northern Samaria will remain.

3. The move will enable Palestinian territorial contiguity in the area of northern Samaria.

4. Israel will improve the transportation infrastructure in Judea and Samaria with the aim of enabling Palestinian transportation contiguity in Judea and Samaria.

5. The move will make Palestinian economic and commercial activity easier in Judea and Samaria.

C. The security fence

Israel will continue to build the security fence, in accordance with the relevant government decisions. The route will take humanitarian considerations into account.

III: Security reality after the evacuation

A. The Gaza Strip

1. Israel will supervise and guard the external envelope on land, will maintain exclusive control in the air space of Gaza, and will continue to conduct military activities in the sea space of the Gaza Strip.

2. The Gaza Strip will be demilitarized and devoid of armaments, the presence of which is not in accordance with the existing agreements between the sides.

3. Israel reserves for itself the basic right of self-defense, including taking preventative steps as well as responding by using force against threats that will emerge from the Gaza Strip.

B. Judea and Samaria

1. Upon evacuation of the settlements from northern Samaria (Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sa-Nur), no permanent military presence will remain in their environs.

2. Israel reserves for itself the basic right of self-defense, including taking of preventative steps as well as responding with force against threats that emerge from this area.

3. In the rest of the Judea and Samaria territories, existing security activity will continue. However, in accordance with the circumstances, Israel will consider reducing its activity in Palestinian cities.

4. Israel will work toward reducing the number of checkpoints in Judea and Samaria as a whole.

IV. Military installations and infrastructures in the Gaza Strip and the northern Samaria area

In general, they will be dismantled and evacuated, except for those that Israel will decide to leave in place and transfer to a body that will be determined.

V. The nature of military aid to the Palestinians

Israel agrees that, in coordination with it, advice, aid and instruction will be given to Palestinian security forces for the purpose of fighting terror and maintaining public order by American, British, Egyptian, Jordanian or other experts, as will be agreed upon by Israel.

Israel insists that there will be no foreign security presence in the Gaza Strip and/or Judea and Samaria that is not in coordination with Israel and with Israel's agreement.

VI. The border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt ("Philadelphi Route")

During the first stage, Israel will continue to maintain a military presence along the border line between the Gaza Strip and Egypt ("Philadelphi Route"). This presence is an essential security need, and in certain places, it is possible that there will be a need for the physical enlargement of the area in which the military activity will be carried out.

Later on, the possibility of evacuating this area will be considered. The evacuation of this area will be contingent on, among other things, the security reality and the extent of Egypt's cooperation in the creation of a more reliable arrangement.

If and when conditions emerge for the evacuation of this area, Israel will be prepared to examine the possibility of establishing a sea port and an airport in the Gaza Strip, subject to arrangements that will be determined with Israel.

VII. The Israeli settlements

Israel will aspire to leave standing the real estate assets of the Israeli settlements. (Note: subject to the presence of an international body that will accept proprietorship as noted below.)

The transfer of Israeli economic activities to Palestinian use embodies within it a possibility for the expansion of Palestinian economic activity.

Israel proposes that an international body be established (on the model of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee - AHLC), to be agreed upon by the United States and Israel, which will receive possession from Israel of the settlements that remain and will appraise the value of all the assets.

Israel reserves for itself the right to ask for consideration of the economic value of the assets that will be left in the evacuated area.

VIII. Infrastructures and civilian arrangements

The water, electricity, sewage and communications infrastructures that serve the Palestinians will be left in place.

Israel will aspire to leave in place the water, electricity and sewage infrastructures that serve the Israeli settlements that will be evacuated.

As a rule, Israel will enable the continued supply of electricity, water, gas and fuel to the Palestinians, under the existing arrangements.

The existing arrangements, including the arrangements with regard to water and the electro-magnetic area, will remain valid.

IX: The activity of the international civilian organizations

Israel views very favorably continued activity of the international humanitarian organizations and those that deal will civil development, which aid the Palestinian population.

Israel will coordinate with the international organizations the arrangements that will make this activity easier.

X. The economic arrangements

In general, the economic arrangements that are currently in effect between Israel and the Palestinians will remain valid. These arrangements include, among other things:

A. The entry of workers into Israel in accordance with the existing criteria.

B. The movement of goods between the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria, Israel and foreign countries.

C. The monetary regime.

D. The taxation arrangements and the customs envelope.

E. Postal and communications arrangements.

XI. The Erez Industrial Zone

The Erez Industrial Zone, which is located inside the Gaza Strip, employs approximately 4,000 Palestinian workers. The continued activity of the industrial zone is, above all, a definite Palestinian interest.

Israel will consider leaving the industrial zone in its current format under two conditions:

A. The maintenance of appropriate security arrangements.

B. An explicit recognition by the international community that the continued existence of the industrial zone in its current format will not be perceived as a continuation of Israeli control in the area.

Alternatively, the industrial zone will be transferred to the responsibility of an agreed-upon Palestinian or international element.

Israel will examine, together with Egypt, the possibility of establishing a joint industrial zone on the border of the Gaza Strip, Egypt and Israel.

XII. The international crossing points

A. The international crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt:

1. The existing arrangements will remain in force.

2. Israel is interested in transferring the crossing point to the "border triangle," about two kilometers south of its current location; this will be done in coordination with the Egyptians. This will allow the expansion of the hours of activity at the crossing point.

B. The international crossing points between Judea and Samaria, and Jordan:

The existing arrangements will remain in force.

XIII. The Erez crossing point

The Erez crossing point will be moved into the territory of the State of Israel according to a timetable that will be determined separately.

XIV. Timetable

The evacuation process is planned for completion by the end of 2005.

The stages of the evacuation and the detailed timetable will be made known to the Americans.

XV. Summary

Israel expects broad international support for the disengagement move. This support is essential in order to bring the Palestinians to actually implement what is incumbent upon them in the areas of fighting terror and the carrying out of the reforms according to the road map, at which time the sides will be able to return to negotiations.

My reflections:

Israel is obviously very concerned with its security and will strive to see that Gaza will not transform into a terrorist entity. Therefore, it will rightly continue to control all international passages (Article II.A.1, and Article XII). The Strip will not be allowed to invite international forces to exercise control unless Israel - which will no longer be responsible for 1.3 million Gazans - agrees. Israel rightly demands that Gaza be demilitarized, stating that the presence of weapons "is not in accordance with the existing agreements" (III.A.2).

Israel rightly insists that there will be no foreign security presence in the territories (Article V). The history of foreign involvement proved to be damaging to Israel's interests. UN behavior in Lebanon during the past few years is only a small testimony of the negative role that such presence played in our troubled region. Those of us with longer memory will never forget U-Thant's contribution to inflaming the region in 1967, leading to the outbreak of the Six Day War, the cause of much of our present troubles.

It is encouraging to know that Israel will try to reduce the no. of checkpoints in the West Bank (Article III.B.4).

According to Article VII, Sharon does not prepare another Yamit, i.e., that he does no intend to destroy the settlements. I congratulate this wise decision.

I also understand that the priority is to resettle the evacuated settlers in the Negev and Galilee, two areas that certainly need more Jewish presence. I hope this, indeed, will be the case.

The basic services (water, electricity, fuel, etc.) will remain the same and instead of serving the Jewish settlement they will now serve the Palestinians (Article VIII). The perpetuation of these arrangements is of the highest importance. Israel should not suffocate the Palestinians and do its best to ensure Gaza's economic viability and livelihood.

Sharon needs to receive the affirmation of its party and government. The time table for the implementation of the Plan is one year, i.e. next Pesach (hopefully less). I am optimistic. As you know, I have been promoting the Gaza First Plan since 2000, and one of the reasons for preferring this plan over others was that when I spoke with people, from left and more so from the right, the Plan was appealing to all. Even devout Likudniks agreed with me that Israel has nothing to seek in Gaza.

Israel asked for American guarantees of $5 billion to carry out the Plan. From my independent talks with experts in Europe and the USA I received the impression that such a request would be received with sympathy in both continents.

Lecture in Arizona on State and Religion

This month I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona by the invitation of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Arizona State University to speak on one of my favourite topics: Liberalism, Liberty and Multiculturalism. Here I wish to share with you what I think regarding state and religion in Israel.

If an illiberal minority is seeking to oppress other groups, then most liberals would agree that intervention is justified to curtail that suppression. Hence the secular majority in Israel has every right to object to attempts which aim at narrowing its freedom of conscience and to broaden the authority of religious orthodoxy.

Democracy is supposed to allow each and every individual the opportunity to follow her or his conception of the good without coercion. Israel today gives precedence to Judaism over liberalism. I submit that on issues such as this one, the reverse should be the case.

Israel, being the only Jewish state in the world, should strive to retain its Jewish character. The symbols should remain Jewish with some accommodations in order to make the state a home for its Palestinian citizens as well. Shabbat should remain the official day of rest. Palestinian villages and towns may make Friday their day of rest. Hopefully, one day, when security considerations would become less dominant and pressing, and the Israeli economy could afford two days of rest, as is the case in many parts of the world, then Friday and Shabbat will become the two official days of rest.

Having said that, the preservation of the Jewish character of the state should not entail coercion of the predominant secular circles of Israel. The guiding principle should be Live and Let Live. We need to differentiate between the symbolic aspects and the modus operandi aspects. As far as the latter are concerned, separation between state and religion should be achieved. People are born free and wish to continue their lives as free citizens in their homeland. Coercion is foreign to our natural sentiments and desires to lead our lives free as possible from alien restraints and impediments. Hence, while Shabbat should be observed, malls and shopping places outside the cities should be available for the many people who work during the week and do their shopping during weekends.

Public transportation should be made available for all people who cannot afford having a car and for those who do not drive. The state should cater for the needs of as many citizens as possible. Kosher shops and restaurants should be available and with them non-Kosher shops and restaurants for the secular, agnostic population.

Most importantly, the significant events in one's life: birth, wedding, divorce and death should be handled in accordance of the people's own choices. If they so desire, people may involve rabbinate and other religious institutions in their private lives. But this option should be left to them. If people wish to have secular ceremonies then they should have the ability to conduct them and not to be forced to undergo practices which mean very little to them, if anything. The state should have as little as possible say in family, intimate affairs.

The argument for religious autonomy and against religious coercion leads me to distinguish between inter-group relationships (one group imposing its views on another), and intra-group relationships (a group imposing its views on its own members). One group has no right to coerce the entire society into following its conception of the good and abiding by its cultural norms. In the event that a religious or cultural group makes such an attempt, other segments of society have to open further channels of communication and resolve the situation by peaceful means. If these means fail, they should resort to authoritative means to draw the boundaries and fight against coercion.

I thank Linell Cady and Jim Weinstein for the kind invitation.

New Books

Sayed Kashua, Vayeii Boker (Let It Be Morning) (Jerusalem: Keter, 2004, Hebrew).

Very interesting and readable book, from an Arab-Israeli perspective that one does not always hear. I recommend reading.

Paul Berman, Terror and Liberalism (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003), 214 pp.

I was recently asked to review this book. A shorter version of the following will be published in e-Extreme, Electronic Newsletter of the ECPR-SG on Extremism & Democracy, Vol.5, No.2 (Spring 2004).

After September 11, 2001, the United States became immersed with the study of terrorism, the enhancement of national security, and the study of Islam. The "Know your enemy" trend became prevalent. Samuel Huntington's theory about "the clash of civilizations" enjoyed renewed popularity. Paul Berman's book is part of this trend. It is yet another attempt to understand the rift between the west and Islam, to try to make sense of the hatred that was grossly manifested on September 11, hatred that brought young, educated and skilled men, who had promising future ahead of them, to hijack four plans and fly them into the twin towers, the Pentagon, and to another designated location.

In the first chapter, Berman justifies the war on Iraq, saying that "Saddam's regime was aggressive, dynamic, irrational, paranoid, murderous, grandiose and demagogic" (p. 4). Although I am also a supporter of the war on Iraq, I found this statement somewhat puzzling. One may also argue that the US regime is aggressive, dynamic, grandiose and demagogic, and some may add it is irrational. Also, I hope nations do not wage wars on each other because they are paranoid. Amassing so many adjectives together is a sign for light writing, which has some advantages: it is quick, easy to read, and usually engaging. The downside of such writing is that it lacks focus and cautiousness.

Berman rightly thinks that leaving Saddam in office in 1991 was a mistake, and that Bush Sr. should have ousted Saddam. Bush Jr. returned to the scene to complete the job, to fight down totalitarianism and terrorism. Berman rightly contends that the main issue is not the availability of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Saddam was a threat to the free world: A person who sought from his early days as his country's dictator to wage wars, disturb world peace, and sponsor terror and mayhem. For Berman, the Gulf War resembled in many respects the First World War (p. 14).

What was the reason for the war in Iraq? Berman thinks Sept. 11 was the reason. The attack on the US showed that totalitarianism in its modern Muslim version was not going to stop at slaughtering millions of Muslims, hundreds of Israelis, attacking the Indian government, and blowing up American embassies. The totalitarian enthusiasms were rising, and the United States was in danger. Once Bush Jr. declared war on terrorism (not a small feat, considering that terrorism is endemic in all continents, with the exception of Antarctica), it was clear that Saddam was high on his list, not only as a debt and closing the circle which his father left open, but also because Iraq was one of the main sponsors of terror around the globe. Berman notes that Iraq paid each Palestinian suicide bombers $25,000.* This is a substantial sum of money for the impoverished Palestinians.

* See,2933,48822,00.html.

Berman goes on to describe the very intricate relationships between the US and Saudi Arabia, relationships that are based on business interests, without mutual appreciation or sentiments. Today's superpower is an important ally for any country in the world, whereas Saudi Arabia has a strategic role to play, both because of its oil and its geography. For Berman Saudi Arabia represents evil: the beheadings, the veils, the oppression of women, intolerance, and Satanic conspiracy theories about Jews (p. 14). He finds it striking that when the US attacked Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia declined to permit full use of the American air bases, and did not allow American investigators to interrogate Qaeda prisoners inside its borders (Ibid).

Quoting Samuel Huntington, Berman writes that in every place where Muslim populations border on non-Muslim populations, some kind of war had broken in recent years. Islam has bloody borders (p. 15). The United States took active role in trying to mitigate conflicts and calm tensions. Still it is considered as the enemy of Islam. Berman argues that in recent history "no country on earth has fought so hard and consistently as the United States on behalf of Muslim populations" (p. 17). Interesting as it may sound, the question begs why so many Muslim countries and organizations failed to recognize this.

In chapter 2, Berman begins a tour of the 19th century violent anarchists and bloody colonialists as well as 20th century totalitarian regimes. The tour is quite rapid, looking at the scholarship of people like Tariq Ramadan and Albert Camus (no mentioning of Arendt or Talmon, arguably more important scholars in the field of totalitarianism); at the atrocious destruction of Congo by King Leopold of Belgium, and at the violent actions around the globe during these two centuries by people like Nechaev, Vera Zassulich, Boris Savinkov and, of course, Lenin in Russia; Alexander Berkman in the US, and Luigi Galleani in Italy. Berman speaks of the role of the leader, rushing from Italy's Mussolini to Spain under Franco and then inescapably to Hitler's National Socialism and Stalin's communism. No in-depth analysis is provided. Berman paints with a large brush, taking issues and immediately brushes them aside.

Chapters 3 and 4 constitute the most interesting part of the book. Berman speaks of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his admiration for the Nazis. He characterizes the Baathi and the Islamist movements as two branches of a single impulse: Muslim totalitarianism (p. 60), and then discusses in depth the scholarship of Sayyid Qutb whom he describes as the single most influential writer in the Islamist tradition, at least among the Sunni Arabs. The notion of Islam as totality, Berman ventures, is Qutb's most important concept, which distinguishes Islam from other worldviews. The Koran offers a way of life, and the proper understanding of its teaching can be achieved only in an atmosphere of serious struggle. Struggle against Judaism. Struggle against Christianity. Struggle against Greek philosophy. Struggle against Roman mythology. And, plainly, for different reasons, struggle against atheist Marxism as well as against tolerant, liberty-based liberalism.

Berman elaborates on the latter, explaining that the whole purpose of liberalism was "to put religion in one corner, and the state in a different corner, and to keep those corners apart" (p. 79). This will not do for Muslims who adopt the Islam-as-totality concept. The liberal maxim of "live and let live" is a destructive idea. Anything and everything is in the hands of God, and him alone. Qutb considered that, in a liberal society, religion has been reduced to a set of rituals and a private morality, quite as if the individual was the final arbiter of behavior. But the final arbiter is no one but The Almighty.

Quite timely, considering that Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ is now playing in cinemas throughout the world (my view on the film infra), Berman sees similarity between the story of Muhammad and the Medina Jews and the Gospel story of Jesus and the Jerusalem Jews some seven hundred years earlier (p. 84). Does history repeat itself, or maybe religious mysticisms lack imagination?

According to Berman's interpretation of Qutb the battle between the Western world and Islam arose from the effort by world Zionism and the crusading Christians to annihilate Islam. Qutb, he explains, was afraid that liberal doctrines about religion would spread into the Muslim world, take root there and push Islam aside (p. 91). Berman elucidates that Qutb's doctrine was merely one more version of the European totalitarian idea. Consequently, we are facing the same battle that tore Europe apart during most of the twentieth century, only in a new version. It is the clash of liberalism and its enemies, the struggle between freedom and totalitarianism.

That is to say, Terror and Liberalism contends that Islamic fundamentalism and Saddam Hussein's Baath socialism are morally, ideologically and historically continuous with the totalitarian movements of the 20th century; that fascism and communism both fed on liberals' resistance to comprehending the irrational nature of those movements; and that the same blindness is rampant today.

The author, a long-time writer on and observer of American foreign policy who reported on Nicaragua, Mexico, France, the Czech Republic and other countries, thinks that September 11 did not come from a single man. Instead it was a product of the larger totalitarian wave, and the only proper response was to comprehend the size and depth of that larger wave, and find ways to begin rolling it back. To roll it back for our own sake, and everyone else's sake, Muslims included. Afghanistan, and then Iraq, with its somewhat antique variation of the Muslim totalitarian idea, were only the beginning.

Berman sheds light on the suicide murderers phenomenon, saying that the Surah instructs Muslims that in the fight to uphold God's universal Truth, lives will have to be sacrificed. Those who are willing to die are honorable people, "pure of heart and blessed of soul" (p. 101). And the great surprise is that they must not be considered as dead. "They continue to live, as God Himself clearly states" (Ibid).

In chapter 5, Berman unfortunately abandons the in-depth analysis and returns to the "wide paint strokes" methodology. He speaks of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, the Iran-Iraq War, the civil war in Algiers (1992-1997), terrorism in Israel, jihad in Sudan, the Lebanese civil war, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, leading to the emergence of Al Qaeda. For Berman Al Qaeda is not a conventional political movement but a "chiliastic movement" whose goal is to Caliphate the world (p. 116).

The last two chapters of the book examine the failed peace process in the Middle East, and the attack on the United States. Here Berman provides platform to extraordinarily long quotes of criticisms of Israel (pp. 140-141) while explaining the success of suicide murderers. In his characteristic lively but insufficient rigorous prose Berman jumps from one issue to another, from one character to another, skimming through events like a thirsty butterfly: from Bill Clinton to Jose Bove; from suicide terror to the bloody fighting in Jenin; from Breyten Breytenbach to Jose Saramago to Noam Chomsky. Berman ends with a note on the gulf between the United States and Europe, arguing that European intellectuals no longer see these two forces as one, Atlantic civilization. According to Berman's interpretation of their view the United States is drifting in a direction of its own, which eventually is going to produce a different civilization (p. 203). Of all the issues that differentiate the United States from Europe Berman takes issue with one: capital punishment.

The book contains many interesting ideas and is certainly thought-provoking. Terror and Liberalism is written in a dynamic prose. It is designated for lay people who are interested in the issue. It contains thoughts and speculations (in p. 143 Berman flatly writes: "I cannot prove this last explanation. My theory is sheerest speculation"). There are quotes but no references. Indeed, I was somewhat curious about Berman's sources, and their reliability. Many readers, I hasten to think, would appreciate some more information, especially when Berman writes in a blurry fashion that some passages in Qutb's writings have been misinterpreted "in some of the Western commentaries on Qutb" (p. 87), without supplying any details about the identity of those commentaries, and in what way did they misinterpret Qutb.

At the end of the book, Berman included A Note to the Reader, in which he cited the principal sources that guided his thinking. This is a atypical way to provide references that I certainly do not endorse.

There are some inaccuracies in the book that indicate that Berman often wrote from memory, without checking the data as he should have. For instance, there are hardly any Chinese immigrants in Israel (p 112). However, there are quite a few Chinese foreign workers. I do not know of any Palestinian children selected to commit suicide prior the book's publication (p. 112). There were cases in which children served as a shield for armed men fighting against Israeli soldiers, and few instances in which youth chose to end their lives as suicide murderers. Only recently, in April 2004, came to knowledge cases in which children were sent to carry out suicide attacks. Furthermore, suicide attacks did not begin in earnest with the bombing of a teenagers' disco in June 2001 (pp. 129-130). The phenomenon started in Israel on April 16, 1993, at a restaurant near Mechola in the Jordan Valley. Between April 1993 and February 2004 there were 152 suicide attacks. They resulted in 631 people killed and 4107 people injured.**

** Cf. I thank Arie Perliger for the updated information.

Two final concise comments: Terror and Liberalism lacks Index. This is sorely missed. And the book has been translated into French, Italian, German, and Norwegian.

Mel Gibson's Passion

I finally went to see The Passion of The Christ. I think it is a film every Jew should see. After seeing this film I better understand why the history of the relationships between Christians and Jews is filled with so much bitter animosity, resentment and hatred.

For me the issue is not so much whether Gibson presents a credible interpretation of history. The important thing is that he presents a prevalent image of the role Jews plays in the crucifixion of Jesus. After watching the film I can understand how Christians may argue that the film is not anti-Semitic. I assume they are oblivious to the issue. It might be the case that the film merely showed what they believed all their lives, hence there is nothing peculiar or unusual in the message. What I find baffling is that some Jews argued after watching the film, including one critique of Haaretz that the film is not anti-Semitic. Did we watch the same film?

Independence Day

The Hamas will try to stage an extraordinary attack to revenge Yassin's assassination. Israeli security forces were able to prevent many attacks in the past few weeks, tightening their hold of the occupied territories. I wish them continued success.

Israel is about to celebrate its fifty-sixth Independence Day. May I wish all of us a quiet and peaceful day of celebration and joy. Please be careful wherever you are. The attack may take place in a major European city.

With my very best wishes, as ever,


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