Fundamentally Freund: Defeating terrorists: From Sri Lanka to Gaza

Let’s leave aside the question of whether a novelist such as Grossman is really in a position to provide the Israeli public with informed military analysis, and look at what a real expert has to say.

August 18, 2014 21:09
4 minute read.
Pro-peace demonstrator in Tel Aviv

A left-wing protester holds up a sign that reads, "No to Code Red, yes to peace," during Tel Aviv rally.. (photo credit: LIOR NOVIK)

This past Saturday night, a few thousand protesters gathered in the heart of Tel Aviv, recycling tired and familiar left-wing slogans as they called upon Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.

In between chants of profoundly creative catchphrases such as “Bibi, go home,” the participants heard speeches from several speakers, all of whom devoted more time and verbiage to criticizing Israel than our enemies.

Apparently unaware that Hamas initiated the latest round of bloodletting, Meretz MK Zahava Gal- On blasted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, hurling the curious accusation that he had “dragged us into a war of choice in Gaza.”

But amid all the political posturing and silly self-flagellation that typifies such left-wing gatherings, there was one theme which stood out for its brazen inanity, so much so that it cannot be allowed to go unanswered.

In his remarks to the crowd, author David Grossman insisted that, “There is no military solution to the conflict between Israel and Hamas,” repeating a line that has become a standard mantra in left-wing circles. “There is no military solution,” he continued, “that will bring an end to the suffering of the residents of the south and the inhuman distress of the residents of Gaza.”

Obviously, by discounting the possible utility of a military solution, Grossman and his comrades are trying to push Israel in the direction of negotiating with the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. After all, if the Islamists cannot be defeated, then how else can the dispute be resolved? The only problem with Grossman’s assertion is that it is patently false. The idea that there is no military solution to the threat posed by Hamas is wishful, rather than truthful, thinking.

Let’s leave aside the question of whether a novelist such as Grossman is really in a position to provide the Israeli public with informed military analysis, and look at what a real expert has to say.

Interviewed by Channel 10, Col. (res.) Roni Bert, who served until recently as a department head at Israel’s National Security Council, said the following: “I am stating unequivocally, and not just based on my military experience as a colonel, but in general, that there is a military option, and that the IDF is capable, if it wants and if it is so ordered, to take over – not conquer, but take over – Gaza in two days and to conquer it, in its entirety, in seven days.”

Similarly, a senior IDF source was quoted in The Jerusalem Post on August 4 as saying the army could have taken control over all of Gaza within a week.

“Had we been ordered to defeat Hamas, we would have done it,” the source said, adding, “We would have drafted four divisions, evacuated the Gazan population from battlegrounds, conquered the area and scanned it thoroughly. It would take a week to take Gaza, and up to two years to destroy terrorist infrastructure.”

There is, of course, the question of whether such an operation would be worth the cost in casualties, or if Israeli society is prepared for such a scenario, but those are subjective moral and political issues, not military ones.

The truth is that there is precedent for the defeat of terrorist organizations through the determined use of military power.

Take for example the case of Sri Lanka. That country was forced to endure years of suicide bombings and decades of violence carried out by a terrorist outfit known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Negotiations and multiple cease-fires all failed to stop the Tamil Tigers, whom the FBI once labeled “the most ruthless and efficient terror organization in the world.”

The terrorists had succeeded in carving out a Gaza-like enclave in northern Sri Lanka, where they enforced their authority through murder, fear and intimidation. They used the area as a base from which to launch brazen terror attacks against civilian and military targets in the hopes of seceding and forming an ethnic Tamil state.

In 2008, after the Tamil Tigers violated a Norwegian- brokered cease-fire, the Sri Lankan government decided that the time had come to alter the strategic situation on the ground once and for all. In December of that year, the Sri Lankan military was sent in to Tiger-controlled territory.

“We gave clear instructions: no cease-fires, no negotiations until we defeat the LTTE completely,” Sri Lankan Defense Minister Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told The Washington Post in February 2009. “The LTTE would use cease-fires and peace talks to reorganize and resupply weapons. There have been...dozens of negotiations and more than 10 cease-fires. Everything failed. After every period of negotiation, they came back stronger. We decided enough was enough.”

Sound familiar? After several months of intensive combat, the Sri Lankan government succeeded in capturing the Tigers’ last remaining outposts and killing its leadership.

In other words, Sri Lanka defeated the Tamil Tiger terrorists not by talking with or appeasing them, but by trouncing them decisively on the battlefield. They brought about an end to the conflict by the resolute use of military force.

Whether or not such a solution can or should be applied to the Hamas threat in Gaza is something that Israeli decision-makers may now be called upon to make. When doing so, let’s hope they put more stock in the experience of Sri Lankan generals than that of the Tel Aviv liberals, and finally give Hamas the thrashing it deserves.

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