There’s been a discussion on Sharon’s attack on Rantisi by David Adesnik on Oxblog, as well as Michael Totten, Dan Simon and Martin Kimel. I’d been meaning to comment on it, and jumping into this discussion seems like a good place to start.
I think the attack (the unsuccessful helicopter attack by Israel on Abdel Aziz Rantisi, one of the political heads of Hamas) was charitably, a bad idea. In fact I think it was colossally stupid…It was a bad idea for two reasons:
First and foremost because while the drama in Israel and Palestine is written in the blood of the residents there, it is being played out for an audience of three.
The United States, the EU, and the Arab states. When these three drama critics make up their minds, we will have peace – almost regardless of the desires of the residents of the area.
The PA is funded by these three, and Arafat stays in power by distributing the loot. Hamas, Hezbollah, and the multiplicity of splinter groups are funded, primarily by the Arab states. They are also funded, both directly and indirectly by the EU, as well as by the rising Arab population in the EU (who act as the Irish population of Boston and the Northeast did and does in supporting the IRA) and to a small extent by the Arab population of the US.
“No bucks, no Buck Rodgers,” is how Tom Wolfe once described the space program.
I’ll suggest that martyrdom on an industrial scale is also an expensive proposition, and that subsidizing the infrastructure that proselytizes, recruits, equips, and delivers terrorists – and rewards their families when they have committed their acts – is the driving engine of the intehfada.
“No bucks, no booms,” is the way I’d put it.
What needs to happen – and what I believe is primed to happen, given the facts on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq – is the slow drying up of the resources that support the terrorist infrastructure.
The PA is slowly lurching toward financial transparency, and the intense pressure of the US on the EU, and the concerns of the EU about terrorism have the potential to show results in managing the PA’s own cash flow.
The Arab states, who have this year seen anti-Western terrorist acts on their own soil, are beginning to take some tiny steps toward limiting their cash subsidy of Palestinian terrorists.
By launching what was widely perceived as an unprovoked attack on Rantisi, Sharon allows himself to be cast as the heavy in this little drama, and made it possible for the forces that succor the terrorists to justify acting just a little more equivocally for just a little while longer. And the resources that feed the terrorist infrastructure – from the schools that teach hate, the media that broadcast it, the recruiters who find the candidate terrorists, to the terrorists themselves – who often admit they are doing it for the glory and financial security of their families – those resources will flow for a little while longer.
The second reason it was a bad idea is practical and tactical; if you have to fight, you always want to choose the time of the fight to your advantage. If your opponent is getting relatively stronger, act sooner. If the opponent is weakening in relation to you, wait. The politics within Palestine, and the politics between the Palestinian terrorists and their sponsors are complicated and chaotic. But all appearances are the that people whose opinions count are stepping away from Hamas and Hezbollah. The Iraqis aren’t writing any checks these days. The Iranians have their hands full. The Saudis are reviewing their positions.
Now much of this doubtless is dissembling, and I don’t doubt for a minute that the diplomats are good at telling us what we hope to hear.
But I don’t see anything that suggests that the ties between Hamas/Hezbollah and their sponsors in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the EU will be stronger in three months than they are today.
So attacking Rantisi three to six months from now wold have offered three advantages:
First, it is narrowly possible that they could have grudgingly accepted the roadmap and agreed to move toward a political solution (sure, I could win the Tour de France this year, too…). Not likely, but barely possible. I lost $5.00 Sunday night to someone who pulled the only card that would save their hand at the river (last card dealt in seven-card stud)…a 1 in 52 shot, and it came across.
Next, waiting weakens Hamas/Hezbollah as their funding is reduced and their legitimacy challenged by opposing forces within the Palestinian proto-state. They rely not only on a core of committed soldiers, but on a wider group of ‘casual combatants'; street kids up for a fight, a collection of the momentarily enraged, all financed by people whose career options are limited to cart vending and terrorism. Some of those may begin to see other options.
Finally, waiting strengthens Israel’s claims on the U.S., as it is seen as complying with yet another peace plan in the face of violent rejection by the other side. Right now, more than at any time since the Suez crisis, the opinion of the U.S. matters.
Sharon’s no idiot; no one in a position like his is. And he certainly has access to information that none of us out here in the safety of the Blogosphere have. But I’m hard-pressed to put together a logical or moral justification for the attack.
I’m sure some readers can suggest a few…