Israel: March 5, 2002

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The violence continues to escalate, with 70 dead in the last five days. Total deaths in 17 months of fighting are 1,355 (1,043 Palestinian and 312 Israeli). To put that into perspective, if the same scale of violence were going on in the United States, the death toll would be 40,000 Americans. 

Both sides continue to escalate the violence. The basic problem remains; the Palestinian radicals are determined to destroy Israel and the Israeli radicals insist on maintaining Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories, and incorporating those lands into Israel. The majority of Palestinians and Israelis will support some kind of peace deal, but only when things have been quiet for a while. When there's a lot of killing going on, most of the locals want revenge. The return of Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians makes it less likely that the pro-peace deal segment of the Israeli population will grow.

Another complicating factor is the reluctance of the United States to lean in Israel (as it has done in the past) to make a deal (and usually a bad one) with the Palestinians. America needs Israel's help with the War on Terror more than it needs anything from the Palestinians or their Arab allies. Israel has a better espionage operation inside the Moslem terrorism underground than anyone else. This is particularly true with Hizbollah (in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Palestinian territories), two large Moslem terror organizations that have worked with al Qaeda. America is also planning operations against Iraq, which require Israeli cooperation.  In theory, both the anti-terrorism and Iraqi operations could benefit from more cooperation from Arab nations. But when it comes to the Palestinian Issue, the U.S. can't do enough no matter how much it does. Moreover, Israel is also a growing supporter of electronic warfare equipment and other military technology for American forces.

The current Israeli strategy is apparently to hammer the Palestinians until they are willing to quiet down and negotiate. While many pundits poo poo this, there is historical precedent. Until the 20th century, this was how the Turks dealt with uprisings. Bloody minded, but it worked. The Arabs never were able to toss out the Turks, it took the British to do that in 1918. 

But in the 21st century it's not enough to just do a Turk on the Palestinians. You have to hold the moral high ground. This means killing fewer civilians than the other side. The Palestinians go after Israeli civilians because they believe that this accomplishes many goals at once; they can terrorize the Israeli electorate into backing more concessions, cause more Jews to leave Israel and increase terrorist popularity among Palestinians. As much as the Israelis would like to avoid killing Palestinian civilians, this is difficult. The Palestinian terrorists take refuge among civilians because that approach provides the best protection. The Palestinians can also depend on some attacks on Palestinian civilians by Israeli extremists (mostly Jewish settlers and their supporters.)

Don't expect peace to break out in this part of the world any time soon.

 

 

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