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In Terror Fight, Israel’s Hands Still Tied

The world is indifferent to Obama's drone attacks, while Israel's targeted killings of terrorists sparks international outrage.

by
P. David Hornik

Bio

October 9, 2010 - 12:46 am

Israel’s outgoing chief of military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, warned this week that the greater Tel Aviv area could face missile attacks from multiple directions, and that Israel’s enemies “are trying to increase their missile arrays in terms of range and accuracy. Tens of thousands of missiles are weapons of terror, not the kind you can conquer land or win a war with.”

In other words, sowing terror among the population could be just one aspect of a larger onslaught.

On a more positive note, Yadlin said he “can safely say that Israel’s deterrence and the IDF’s might are stronger than ever.” However, he also implied that much of Israel’s might could be nullified by political factors: “Our enemies expect our hands to be tied, like in the case of the Goldstone Report. This may allow Iran and Hezbollah to continue arming themselves, while hiding in the midst of civilian population.”

The Goldstone Report, a UN-sponsored counterattack to Israel’s 2009 Gaza offensive, charged Israel with war crimes on the basis of Hamas-vetted interviews in Gaza. Yet it has been only tepidly opposed by the United States and the EU.

Yadlin’s words compare and contrast interestingly with another item in the Israeli media this week, an article on al-Qaeda’s threat to Europe by Ron Ben-Yishai, military analyst for Israel’s largest daily Yediot Aharonot. Noting that U.S., Pakistani, British, French, and German intelligence agencies concur on the existence of the threat, and that the group planning attacks “is hiding, organizing, and training in the tribal area in Western Pakistan,” Ben-Yishai writes that:

This group’s immediate objective is to avenge the fatal blows sustained by al-Qaeda in Pakistan as a result of U.S. drone attacks in recent months. Since entering the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized no less than 122 drone hits against senior al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban leaders hiding out in the tribal regions of the country. This is more than double the number of attacks former President George W. Bush authorized in all eight years of his presidency.

Just last month, at least 22 such attacks in Pakistan alone killed dozens of Muslim terrorists.

Ben-Yishai goes on to note that Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American who attempted to bomb Times Square last May, said in his interrogation that he wanted to avenge the deaths of Muslims in the drone attacks in Pakistan; and that the terrorists now seeking to leave Pakistan for Europe want to target American tourists there out of the same motivation.

That the very frequent U.S. drone attacks — a highly technologically sophisticated form of “targeted killings” — now meet no vociferous objections either in the U.S. or from its European allies in the NATO contingent in Pakistan can only be regarded ironically from an Israeli perspective. Not long ago, when it was Israel carrying out the targeted killings against terrorist leaders in Gaza, the Bush administration typically called them “unhelpful,” while Europe reliably erupted each time in moral outrage.

For example, in 2004 Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin was called “extremely terrible” by then-EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and denounced by most EU foreign ministers. As late as 2008, the European Parliament demanded that Israel “cease … extrajudicial targeted killings.”

The U.S., Europe, and Israel now all face large-scale terror and the need to fight it. Only in Israel’s case, though, does a further factor come into play that can be epitomized with the word “Goldstone”: the expectation that, in fighting its enemies, Israel will get censured by those who are increasingly in the same boat.

In large operations against the terrorist concentrations on its borders — like the 2006 offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the 2009 offensive against Hamas in Gaza — Israel encountered Security Council demands that it stop the fighting, and in the latter instance, the libelous Goldstone Report that encouraged Israel’s enemies to continue their most heinous methods of exploiting civilians.

It would be more pleasant to write, as the terror threat to the other democracies gets more and more immediate and “Israel-like,” that something like a “we are all Israelis now” perception is emerging. Yadlin’s warning about Israel’s hands being tied suggests that day is yet to come.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel.
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