Ex-Mossad official: Only force works against terror

Former senior Mossad official says 2002's Defensive Shield operation shows force is best way to stop terror.

IDF soldier in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield 390 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
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 127.
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.
“Unfortunately, this operation proved that the only way to stop terrorism is with force,” Rami Igra, a former senior Mossad official, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“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 Defensive Shield.
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 Palestinians.”
The cultural differences with radical Islamist elements are enormous, and the threat can only be dealt with using force, Igra said.
While Israel believes that it is possible to reach compromises, “de facto, this isn’t true from a Palestinian perspective,” he added.
Israel is forced to maneuver in a “game of violence, though this is not our wish,” he continued.
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.
“It was 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.
Defense Shield 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,” Schweitzer said.