Livni: Attacks on soldiers not terror

Former defense minister Arens: Livni's statements 'senseless'.

livni sits 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
livni sits 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni came under fire Tuesday for making a distinction between terrorists who attack civilians and enemy fighters who fight against IDF soldiers. "Somebody who is fighting against Israeli soldiers is an enemy and we will fight back, but I believe that this is not under the definition of terrorism, if the target is a soldier," Livni said in an interview three weeks ago on US television network ABC's Nightline that was broadcast on Israel Radio Tuesday. During the ABC interview, Livni was asked whether she considered her father, Eitan, who was the Irgun Zva'i Leumi's director of operations during the pre-state days and fought British rule, a terrorist. She replied that her father fought against British soldiers, not civilians, and agreed that if Hamas used suicide bombings only against soldiers she would not call that "terrorism." Government officials said that Livni was trying to make a distinction, and believed that the international community should make a similar distinction, between terrorism and fighting enemy combatants. Former defense minister Moshe Arens said that Livni's statements were "senseless" and proved that she still had a lot to learn. "What she said indicates a certain level of ignorance that is not appropriate for a foreign minister," Arens said. "All these people, whether they are trying to attack soldiers at a bus stop or civilians in a shopping mall, are all members of terrorist organizations that attack where they see fit. It's wrong to differentiate members of the same terrorist organizations, whether they kill a soldier or a child." Israel's former Consul General Alon Pinkas, who was frequently interviewed on Nightline, said that Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be defined by their ideology and whom they target. Groups that exclusively target soldiers can legitimately be called "guerrilla organizations." Pinkas said Hizbullah, which never sent suicide bombers to Kiryat Shmona, could be called a guerrilla organization, but that Hamas and Islamic Jihad were terrorist organizations. Livni reiterated in an interview to Israel Radio Tuesday morning what she had said in the Nightline interview; namely, that attacks specifically against soldiers could be seen as "more legitimate" than attacks on Israeli civilians. When asked if she was justifying killing or kidnapping soldiers, Livni said that she had spent years attempting to convince the international community to stop portraying terrorists as "freedom fighters." "They should stop trying to 'understand' them," Livni insisted. "No one can tell me that a terrorist who blows himself up in a restaurant or in a nightclub has a 'justifiable' motive. A terror organization is a terror organization, and we will fight them," she declared. The foreign minister said she was not trying to make light of the danger to which Israel's security forces are exposed on a daily basis. "They are all our children," she said, referring to the soldiers. While the IDF Spokesman refused to comment on Livni's remarks, senior officers expressed astonishment with her definition of a terrorist, claiming that the remarks, however, were typical of politicians. The army, one officer said, did not make distinctions between Palestinians who attacked soldiers and those who attacked civilians and acted with the same determination against both groups. "In the end it doesn't make a difference whether we catch the Palestinian in Nablus or in Tel Aviv," the officer said. "As long as these definitions do not affect our operations and actions, in the end it also doesn't really make a difference. The politicians can call the Palestinians whatever they want." But while Livni's remarks did hit a raw nerve with the IDF, where some officers understood what she said to mean that it was almost legitimate to attack soldiers, Justice Ministry officials claimed Tuesday that her distinction was not based on any existing classification. "Livni's distinction was not based on any preexisting definition of what a terrorist is since there is no such legal definition," one official said. According to the IDF's understanding of international law, any Palestinian who engages in or even supports terror activity is deemed a terrorist and can be killed in a military targeted killing. A senior member of the IDF General Staff recently told The Jerusalem Post that Israel would be legally allowed to strike and kill Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh if there was evidence that he engaged in and supported anti-Israel terror activity.