IDF soldier in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield 390 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Ten years ago on Thursday, after terrorists killed more than 100 civilians in
one month, the IDF launched Operation Defensive Shield, and sent its soldiers
deep into West Bank cities and towns.
Palestinian gunmen set up ambushes
in residential areas.
They killed 30 IDF soldiers, and wounded
But Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations suffered
greater casualties in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Kalkilya, Hebron and Tulkarm. The
offensive began a turn-around that eventually succeeded in ending the second
intifada’s deadliest wave of suicide terrorism.
operation proved that the only way to stop terrorism is with force,” Rami Igra,
a former senior Mossad official, told The Jerusalem Post on
“Before the operation, there was an explosion in Israel often.
Afterward, it came to a stop,” he said.
Igra stressed that the
construction of the West Bank security barrier, and the intelligence effort that
came after the offensive, were as pivotal in ending suicide bomb attacks as
Ultimately, he argued, the offensive was a “clear slap
to all those on the Israeli Left who believe in diplomatic means. More than
anything, this symbolizes the differences in approach between us and the
The cultural differences with radical Islamist elements
are enormous, and the threat can only be dealt with using force, Igra
While Israel believes that it is possible to reach compromises, “de
facto, this isn’t true from a Palestinian perspective,” he added.
is forced to maneuver in a “game of violence, though this is not our wish,” he
Operation Defense Shield succeeded in stemming terrorism from
the West Bank, but it did not convince Palestinians to abandon the path of war
and the notion that they can one day destroy Israel, Igra said, adding, “This
has been a 100-year-old struggle.”
Yoram Schweitzer, director of the
program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at Tel Aviv University’s
Institute for National Security Studies, said Defensive Shield began as a
counterterrorism operation, but turned into a message that was sent to the
Palestinian Authority, aimed at telling it that it was time to rein in the
terrorists who had been operating freely from the West Bank.
designed to signal to the PA that it had to stop attacks on Israel, but without
collapsing the PA,” Schweitzer said. The operation did not have immediate
tangible results, but in the following years, the number of suicide bombings
dropped drastically, he noted.
Coupled with targeted killings of senior
Hamas figures, the offensive forced Palestinian political elites to “understand
that this path won’t bear them fruit,” Schweitzer said.
did not, however, prevent Hamas from cashing in on the popularity it gained
among Palestinians by carrying out terrorist attacks, as it went on to defeat
Fatah in elections.
“If you look at it from Hamas’s perspective, they can
say they won. The armed attacks were a means to gain political power,”