Speaking of the murder of more than two dozen Israeli civilians last weekend by what one wire service called "Islamic militants," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld correctly and unequivocally said on NBC's "Meet the Press": "The only way to defend against terrorists is to go after the terrorists."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon didn't waste any time in doing precisely that. Within hours of arriving home from an abbreviated visit to Washington, Sharon ordered air strikes Monday near Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Gaza. The action was apparently intended to limit Arafat's ability to come and go from the region by helicopter.
At a news conference shortly after the strikes, Sharon said Arafat alone is responsible for the terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa and that Israel intends to "chase after" the terrorists. "The guilt is on their heads," Sharon said.
What the United States is doing in Afghanistan in response to terrorist attacks against this country is what Israel should be allowed to do to the terrorists who recruit and brainwash young Palestinian men for "martyrdom."
About the weekend murder-suicide attacks, there were the usual statements by "world leaders," including President Bush, calling on Arafat to do all "in his power" to crack down on militants to prevent the Middle East from spinning out of control.
Two things about that: 1) the Palestinian Authority isn't going to crack down on anyone because terror is an instrument of its policy and designed to pressure Israel to cede more land with no guarantees of peace; and 2) the Middle East has been out of control for some time, in part because Israel's "friend," the United States, forces her to respond to terrorism with one hand tied behind her back.
On Sunday, The Associated Press reported, "Islamic militants in the Middle East welcomed the (weekend) attacks." There were reports throughout the region of celebrations in the streets, as there were after the World Trade Center and Pentagon were bombed and American civilians murdered on Sept. 11. It should be clear to anyone not into severe denial (such as our State Department) that such a view is not extreme in the Arab world, but mainstream.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon echoed Rumseld when he said last weekend that Arafat does "not do anything about the fight against terrorism, and it's obvious that we will have to take this fight into our own hands."
Indeed they will. It is hypocritical in the extreme for the United States to be bombing and invading Afghanistan in response to terrorist incidents orchestrated thousands of miles away from New York and Washington while continuing to place restraints on Israel. If U.S. policy is to deter terrorism by killing terrorists, the United States should free Israel -- diplomatically and militarily -- to combat terrorism in like manner.
Let the Arab states cut off our oil. We can walk or ride horses. We can burn wood for heat in winter. We can drill for oil on our own land. Anything to see murderers punished and future murderers deterred. Besides, any oil cutoff wouldn't last long. Middle East oil producers need our money to prop-up their dictatorial governments.
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a senior official with the terrorist group, Hamas, was quoted Sunday by The Associated Press as saying, "The Palestinian people are adamant on continuation of resistance ... until the defeat of (Israeli) occupation, regardless of the price."
That means the expulsion of all Jews from all of the land called Israel dating back to the modern state's creation. That is their stated and demonstrated objective. It is reflected on their maps, which do not include Israel, and in Palestinian textbooks for children, in which hatred of Jews is drummed into young minds at an early age.
Many of the dead from the latest attacks were youths. They had names like Adam Weinstein, 14, and Assaf Avitan, 15. These children were not old enough for army service. Their lives were taken from them because murder is an instrument of Israel's declared enemies.
It is futile to hope and pray such criminals will ever negotiate in good faith or be willing to compromise their stated objectives, which they claim are mandated by God.
The United States should not attempt to stop Israel from an appropriate response to mass murder, such as the strikes in Gaza. By unleashing Israel, the United States will be opening another front in the war on terrorism, whose capital is in Israel's back yard.
Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services.
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