Wishful Thinking or Rational Strategy

Some of our ministers may have seen the film “A Beautiful Mind” about the great mathematician John Nash, who received a Nobel Prize for his contribution to game theory. But it evidently did not inspire them to delve into game theory.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on September 2, 2003.)

Some of our ministers may have seen the film “A Beautiful Mind” about the great mathematician John Nash, who received a Nobel Prize for his contribution to game theory. But it evidently did not inspire them to delve into game theory.

The murderous “game” with the Palestinians continues to be conducted by Israel on the basis of wishful thinking rather than rational strategy. It is, unfortunately, a recursive game, providing opportunities for learning from past mistakes. But we seem to have learned nothing and are being repeatedly punished for our mistakes.

It started with the Oslo agreements – wishful thinking and visions of the New Middle East took precedence over rational analysis. The government at the time insisted on believing that Arafat, the terrorist, would from now on become a partner in the “peace of the brave;” that Arafat would fight Palestinian terror far better than we ever could. When he violated the agreement, a million excuses were found for his conduct. “We shall continue the peace process as if there was no terror and fight terror as if there was no peace process” and “the victims of Palestinian terror have fallen in the battle for peace” were a few of the nonsensical slogans addressed to the Israeli public. Until the campaign of terror that Arafat launched after rejecting Barak’s offer of near-capitulation at Camp David. By then, just about everybody was disabused of his illusions.

Then came the mass slaughter at the Dolphinarium, and now a new government was telling the public that “restraint was power.” It took the Pesach eve massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya to launch the IDF “Homat Magen” operation that finally began to strike serious blows against Palestinian terror.

But nothing had really been  learned and the government was prepared to be fooled again. Along came Abu Mazen, and now he who was expected to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and his own Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. With this nonrealistic expectation, the government accepted the road map with its commitment to a Palestinian state, and its reference to Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the Palestinian “right of return.”

It is true that in accepting the road map for peace in the Middle East issued by the government of the United States, Abu Mazen committed himself to accomplishing this task. The road map states:

“Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere. Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure. This includes commencing confiscation of illegal weapons and consolidation of security authority, free of association with terror and corruption.”

The Israeli government could not have said it better, but it did not happen. Nor did it even begin to happen. And just who in Israel believed it was going to happen? But in the vain hope that it would happen, with nonsense being spouted about the “hudna,” while the terrorist groups trained and armed and produced Qassam rockets, the IDF was ordered to cut back its campaign against Palestinian terror and to leave the Gaza area and Bethlehem. Had it not been for the “children’s massacre” on the Jerusalem bus, the IDF would have vacated a further four Palestinian cities in Samaria the following day, based on an agreement concluded with Mohammed Dahlan the previous day. These mistakes were being made even though Abu Mazen declared repeatedly that he did not intend, nor was he capable, of taking on the terrorist groups in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

It is axiomatic that there can be no peace process as long as Israeli citizens are being murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Dismantlement of Palestinian terrorist infrastructure and capabilities is therefore the necessary condition for any progress in the peace process. Of course, it would be preferable for the Palestinians to undertake this task themselves. But how many more Israelis have to be killed before we learn that that is not going to happen? Only the IDF and the Israeli security services can do it. Not easy, but doable. The time has come to put an end to illusions and delusions and get on with the job.

Translate »