The frontlines have disappeared in this new kind of conflict, and our old deterrent weapons are no longer enough
The terrorists do not confine themselves to political boundaries. They exist like parasites in countries that are not theirs, and turn into an army within an army, with the freedom to don army uniforms or take them off, as they please.
The arms that a country like Israel has at its disposal are not designed for wars of this nature. It would be senseless to use a plane or helicopter that has cost millions of dollars for the purpose of chasing a lone terrorist, or a small group of terrorists, at high risk. The homeland is also unprepared for this new kind of war. The population is concentrated in a limited area, constituting an easy target for missiles.
Just as it is hard to distinguish between the front and the homeland of the side under attack, it is also not so easy to see the distinction between a weak government and rogue aggressors in the territories from which the attacks are launched.
What are the lessons to be drawn from these changes? No deterrent weapon is everlasting. The form of deterrent must be in accordance with changes on the battlefield – David’s slingshot was good for only one battle. Clearly, Israel must maintain defence forces in case it is attacked by traditional armies. Yet it must develop a strategic deterrent that rests on weapons and an organisational structure appropriate to this new era, in which terrorists are equipped with missiles and media.
A terrorist might be deterred by the knowledge that new surveillance tools have been developed that could identify him, even in a large crowd; that his weapon could be detected without his knowledge. This kind of deterrent could be based on miniaturised arms or on remote-control robots operating on the battlefield; perhaps even on a type of intelligence hitherto unknown, grounded in revolutionary nanotechnology.
Luckily, Israel already has an excellent group of hi-tech scientists capable of developing detection and defence devices that have the capacity to target the enemy individually and give personal protection. Fifty years ago I had the privilege of introducing new arms systems to the Israel Defence Forces that provided Israel with a powerful deterrent that is still valid. I am persuaded that it is possible to do this again, by means of innovative and daring technology, for the long term.
Furthermore, Israel should pursue a policy of population decentralisation, and support the legitimisation of one single authority in the whole of Lebanon – indeed in all countries of the region.
The Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority have lost control of their territories and armed forces. They have stopped representing peace and security in the territories for which they are responsible. Israel must support the governments of Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in their struggles for exclusive territorial and military control over their lands.
A war deterrent is supposed to prevent war. The goal is peace. Despite all the resentment in Israeli public opinion of Palestinian terrorism and terror emanating from Lebanon, attaining peace has not diminished as an objective.
In peace, as in war, the paths change even if the objective does not. The notion of trading territory for peace was successful in two instances – Egypt and Jordan. It failed in two other cases – Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. We withdrew from Lebanon, in keeping with UN resolution 1559, but did not receive full peace in return. We unilaterally withdrew from all the areas of the Gaza Strip but, despite this move, attacks continued to be launched on Israel from that territory.
The deployment of UN troops in southern Lebanon (where Hizbullah had concentrated its forces) as a result of the new UN resolution has given rise to renewed hope that full peace will be achieved with Lebanon, which Siniora has publicly called for. Israel’s response must be positive, public and unequivocal: yes to peace with Lebanon.
The failure to achieve peace with the Palestinians was not the result of ill will on the part of Israel, but of the lack of unity among the Palestinians. The Palestinians who wish for peace do not have the power to advance it. And the ones who do not want an agreement have the power to prevent it. As things stand today, policy will be replaced by tragedy.
The initiative to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank has lost its attraction in the eyes of the Israeli public due to the aftereffects of withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. I cannot envisage a situation today in which the majority of Israelis will support such a withdrawal. We were prepared to enter into bilateral negotiations on the basis of the road map, but to date Hamas has prevented the Palestinian side from following through. Israel will continue proposing bilateral negotiations, despite Hamas’s refusal.
An alternative could take the form of a partnership involving Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians, following an economic route rather than a political one. These three have already agreed to turn the whole border region between the Red Sea and the Jordan river into a joint economic peace corridor, along which industrial plants, tourism and agriculture will be developed. This approach has worked elsewhere; most of the important changes that have occurred around the globe since the end of the second world war have been the outcome not of military interventions but of economic advances.
The three entities that agreed on this initiative lack the necessary means to implement the plan. However, international funds that seek new markets and opportunities, despite the risks involved, tend to be attracted to regional development projects such as this. If we can privatise part of the economy, why not privatise part of peace?
Therefore we must propose to the Palestinians that we enter into political/ diplomatic negotiations on the only basis acceptable to the international community and to the Palestinians themselves – the extant road map – and at the same time remove the yoke of economic distress through the development triangle.
No longer is the adage “a people will reside alone” valid. There are no frontlines any more, in war or peace.
Â© 2006 Global Viewpoint Distributed by Tribune Media Services