Illusions and Delusions

Only the guilt feelings prevalent among some victims of violence can explain the delusion of those Israelis who blame Israel for acts of aggression committed against Israel.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on January 4, 2006.)

Only the guilt feelings prevalent among some victims of violence can explain the delusion of those Israelis who blame Israel for acts of aggression committed against Israel.

For them, acts of violence by Hizbollah or Palestinian terrorist groups against Israel seem no more than legitimate reactions to injuries inflicted on them by Israel, and the appropriate response, as far as they are concerned, is to give in to at least some of the demands of the perpetrators of violence, in the expectation that such concessions would put an end to their intentions to commit further acts of violence against Israel.

That presumably was the logic of those demonstrating for a withdrawal of the IDF from the southern Lebanon security zone. Despite Hizbollah’s virulent declarations against Israel, they preferred to view Hizbollah as Lebanese patriots whose sole objective was to free Lebanese territory from Israeli occupation, whose attacks against Israel would cease as soon as the IDF withdrew from Lebanon, turning the Hizbollah into just another Lebanese political party.

This simpleminded logic was partially adopted by Ehud Barak as prime minister, when he decided on the withdrawal of the IDF from the south Lebanon security zone and the abandonment of the South Lebanese Army, Israel’s long-time ally.

To this illusion he added a delusion: now that Israel had withdrawn behind the internationally recognized Israel-Lebanese border, Israel would be free to impose on Lebanon the harshest retribution if there were to be any further acts of violence against Israel coming from Lebanon. This threat was to serve as an adequate deterrent and bring peace to our northern border. As if Israel had not been fully justified to respond to Hizbollah attacks against Israeli towns and villages while the IDF and SLA were deployed in the south Lebanon security zone, as if Israel had not been fully justified in holding the Lebanese government responsible for these attacks and attacking targets in Lebanon in order to get the Lebanese army to rein in the Hizbollah.

Reality turned out to be different. The Hizbollah militia did not disband and continued its attacks against Israel, the Lebanese army was not deployed along the Israeli border, international pressure was not applied on Lebanon to put a stop to Hizbollah’s activities, and Israel did not respond forcefully to Hizbollah attacks along the northern border, not even after the kidnapping of three Israel soldiers there.

The Hizbollah claim that the Shaba area was Lebanese territory that had remained under Israeli control, and that they were therefore justified in continuing their attacks against Israel even led some Israelis to conclude that the IDF should withdraw from there as well. But that delusion was going a little too far. When Katyushas fell on Kiryat Shmona and Shlomi the other week, the illusions that led to the abandonment of the security zone were suddenly dispelled.

In the meantime, a clone of the Lebanese illusion had taken hold of Ariel Sharon. If Israel were to dismantle the Israeli settlement blocs in Gush Katif and south of Ashkalon, this presumably was likely to assuage at least some Palestinian ambitions and put an end to Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel. But in case they were to continue, Israel would now be justified in responding in full force to put an end to them. As if there had not been sufficient justification for Israel’s battle against Palestinian terrorism prior to the disengagement.

But this illusion was quickly shattered. Kassam attacks against Israeli towns and villages that occurred before the disengagement continued after the disengagement. The withdrawal from Nisanit, Elei Sinai, and Dugit now put the southern outskirts of Ashkalon into Kassam range, and Kassams began falling in that area. The Chelm-like Israeli response now to attempt to prevent the entry of Palestinians into the area from which the Israeli settlers had been evacuated is not likely to solve the problem.

The decision to dismantle the Israeli settlements in that area served no useful purpose, while it endangered the inhabitants of Ashkalon, and was a most serious error of judgment by those responsible for Israel’s defense policy. That was followed by another error, when it was decided that Israel’s response to the Katyusha attacks from Lebanon would be no more than symbolic. It was reminiscent of Sharon’s vacuous slogan that “restraint is strength” in the first months of the second intifada, when Israel failed to respond to Palestinian suicide attacks. That, plus the scandalous decision for a massive release of Palestinian terrorists – some of whom quickly returned to their terrorist vocation – as part of the Tennenbaum exchange raises doubts regarding the judgment of Sharon and Mofaz presently at the helm of Israel’s defense establishment, who are seeking the approval of the Israeli electorate in the next election.

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