- LONDON (UPI) - We will only
be able to conduct talks after they've been battered, explained Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week, when asked how he intends to
with the Palestinians.
- A respected Israeli colleague recently told me that the
Palestinians need another Six-Day War to instill fear of the Israeli
They will only make peace when they realize they are no match for the
military machine, he said.
- This generation of Palestinians, he added, have not seen
the Israeli army on the offensive. Their memories are of Israeli soldiers
dodging stones in the West Bank during the Intifada, and of Hezbollah
broadcasting on Arab television successful attacks on Israeli targets in
- This argument is based on the concept that once the
suffer a military defeat, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat
would return to the negotiation table agreeing to Israeli terms for
- In other words, Israel's instigation of a full-scale
war represents the best strategy for achieving peace. Unfortunately, the
proponents of this argument misunderstand several key points.
- The basic premise behind this argument is false. History
confirms that a hardening, not a softening, of the Arab political position
has followed each Israeli military victory. Why should it be any different
- There is a strong tradition in Arab culture of only
peace from a position of strength. Peace without honor is unworthy in Arab
- The international implications and form of any
war remains unclear. A likely scenario is that the war will not be over
in a few weeks, as many suggest. Rather Palestinian resistance could drag
on for months, or even years.
- The war will not only be fought solely in Israel, but
throughout the world. Many Western governments are guilty of not doing
enough to dismantle the infrastructure of radical Palestinian
- While security services concentrate on Islamic
other Palestinian groups that are no less radical continue to slip through
- These groups continue to be well financed, well
highly disciplined, and crucially dispersed. As a result, major attacks
on Jewish political and economic targets across the globe are
- The role of other Arab states during such a war remains
unclear. Syria would remain outside initially because it loathes Arafat
almost as much as Israel. But Syria may enter at a later stage if
casualties become unacceptably high.
- Egypt has indicated that it would move its Third Army
into the demilitarized Sinai Desert on Israel's southern border.
- The wild card is Iraq. It is easy to see Saddam Hussein
intervening, particularly if a major attack from the United States was
- This introduces another major complication for Israel.
Does it want to antagonize its major ally by launching a war on the
just as the United States is seeking Arab support for toppling
- Next comes the casualty issue. Would the international
community apply political pressure on Israel, preventing it from achieving
a military victory, as the death toll increases?
- No war ever goes according to plan, but experts have
predicted a war between Israel and Palestine would approximately 1,200
Israelis and 12,000-15,000 Palestinians dead.
- Which side could absorb casualties better? The answer
says much about the misconception of offensive Israeli military action
- Palestinians genuinely view this war as their war of
independence and see the sacrifice of their loved ones as necessary, as
the family of a suicide attacker confirmed on TV last week.
- In Israel, many ask why soldiers should die to regain
territory that their political leaders are planning to give back anyway.
This is a consequence of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer to Arafat
at Camp David in July 2000 to hand over 93 percent of the West Bank.
- Israel is caught between a rock and a hard place. The
present strategy of using measured responses to Palestinian attacks is
clearly not working. Launching a major attack on the Palestinian Authority,
however, is fraught with danger and does not guarantee any future political
- Leafing through books on war strategy this week, from
the ancient classic Sun Tzu's The Art of War by Sun Tzu to Carfl von
On War, I could find no theoretical support for launching war when its
potential military and political gains are so uncertain.
- Israel may find itself in a war against its will, but
to suggest that an offensive war is the best strategic option for achieving
peace is misplaced to say the least.
- Neill Lochery is director of the Centre for Israeli
at University College London
- Copyright © 2002 United Press International. All