Wednesday was a difficult day. First, on Wednesday morning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel's annihilation. Then, a few hours later, a Palestinian terrorist blew up at a felafel stand in Hadera and murdered five Israelis.
Israel's responses to these events revealed as much about its strategic confusion as Ahmadinejad's speech and the bombing revealed about our enemies' strategic clarity.
In the case of Iran, Israel's response was well-conceived and executed. In calling for the annihilation of Israel - a UN member state - Iran stands in grave breach of the UN Charter, which stipulates that member states must foster peaceful relations with one another. And so, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom ordered Israel's ambassador at the UN to demand Iran's expulsion from the world body. Israel's emissaries throughout the world rapidly pointed out the fact that with its nuclear weapons program, its ballistic missiles and its active support for global terrorism, Iran is not just Israel's problem. It constitutes a clear and present danger to global security.
In sharp contrast to Israel's clear, understandable and constructive response to the Iranian threat, the government's response to the bombing in Hadera was marked by confusion, defeatism and absurdity.
How is this the case? First it should be recalled that in the immediate wake of last week's terror attack at the Gush Etzion junction, the Aksa Martyr Brigades - the terror group belonging to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party - issued an announcement claiming responsibility. Oddly, in the hours that followed, IDF commanders and government ministers denied Fatah's claim and insisted that Hamas, not Fatah, had carried out the attack that murdered three.
Although no evidence was ever presented to back up this claim, let's assume that it is true. Still, the question arises: What does the fact that Fatah claimed responsibility tell us about Abbas's Fatah party, on which Israel and the US are currently pinning all their hopes for peace and security?
After Wednesday's bombing, the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. As is their habit, the terrorists claimed that the massacre of Israeli civilians was their response to the IDF's killing of their terror commander Luai Sa'adi in Tulkarm earlier this week.
But then something interesting occurred.
In Gaza City, masked Fatah and Islamic Jihad terrorists held a joint press conference where they claimed joint responsibility for the bombing. A Fatah spokesman further announced that any attack against Islamic Jihad will be viewed as an attack against Fatah as well. Disturbingly, no Israeli newspaper other than The Jerusalem Post reported on the press conference.
And that isn't all. Like the government, the Israeli media also ignored the fact - reported again exclusively by the Post's Khaled Abu Toameh - that in the same IDF raid where Sa'adi was killed, Majed al-Ashkar, a senior Fatah terror commander, was also killed. The Israeli Hebrew-speaking public has not been informed that the two had spent the past several months establishing joint Fatah-Islamic Jihad cells throughout Judea and Samaria and Gaza.
FOR HIS part, Abbas, whom the Sharon-Peres government and the Bush administration uphold as Israel's partner in peace and the fight against terrorism, has been making some interesting moves. Abbas has told the Americans and the Israelis that he is working to end Fatah terrorism by integrating the Aksa Martyrs Brigades into the Palestinian security forces.
But on Wednesday night, Channel 2's reporter in Gaza interviewed three such "former" terrorists as they stood in position outside the ruins of the community of Neveh Dekalim. The flag flying from the top of their tent was that of the Aksa Martyr Brigades. One man was in uniform and the other two were wearing civilian clothes. All were brandishing the same AK-47 rifles they received as terrorists. All claimed that they are still part of the Aksa Brigades.
As one Palestinian source noted to the Post, the fact that Fatah and Islamic Jihad terrorists are now operating in the same cells raises the prospect that Islamic Jihad operatives will infiltrate the Palestinian security services by claiming to be Fatah terrorists. As members of the security forces, these murderers will receive training at the hands of Russian security personnel who are now operating in Gaza.
And that's another thing. According to recent press reports, as the multitudes of foreign terrorists entered Gaza after the IDF abandoned the Philadelphi Corridor linking Gaza to the Sinai last month, Russian security forces also quietly entered the area. Without any prior coordination with Israel the Russians set up shop in Gaza, where they claim to be training Palestinian security forces which they also wish to arm with armored personnel carriers and other weapons systems.
Given Russia's intent to sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria and its continued support for Iran's nuclear program, the deployment of an unknown number of Russian security personnel in Gaza is an unwelcome strategic development that is liable to have disastrous and far-reaching consequences. Abbas himself spent a formative period of his terror career as a KGB underling in Moscow while he received his doctorate in Holocaust denial at the Soviet Institute for Oriental Studies in the 1960s.
Apart from all of this, the attack in Hadera on Wednesday showed - yet again - that the security fence that the Left touts as the ultimate antiterror weapon is worthless. Officers in the Central Command claimed that the bomber was able to enter Israel by going through one of the several dozen gates in the fence. These passages were set up to enable both Israelis and Palestinians to pass through the fence legally and can be easily exploited by terrorists.
Even if Israel were to seal the gates (a move that would induce immediate protest from the Palestinian "human rights" camp), the terrorists would still find a way to infiltrate into Israel. As they did two years ago on the Trans-Israel Highway, they can dig a tunnel. Or as they did four years ago along the fence separating Israel from Lebanon, they can build a ladder. Since the time of the Assyrian Empire 2,700 years ago, there has never been a defensive wall that cannot be breached by an enemy with sufficient will to do so.
IN THE aftermath of the bombing in Hadera, and in the face of the integration of Fatah and Islamic terror groups, Abbas's continued collusion with terrorists, Russia's uncoordinated deployment in Gaza, and the unraveling of the fence as a defensive strategy, what did the government do on Wednesday night? It declared "war" on the Islamic Jihad.
In so doing, the government maintained its earnest denial of all the essential components of Israel's current security reality. The government stated at the outset that the IDF's offensive against Islamic Jihad must necessarily be limited to prevent the operations from weakening the irreplaceable Abbas. And so, on the Gaza front, the "war" was immediately reduced to a renewal of the IAF's sound and light show over Gazan skies and the artillery corps' renewed pummeling of open fields in northern Gaza.
As for operations in Judea and Samaria, without knowing how many terrorists will be rounded up or killed in the coming days, it is already certain that their arrests or deaths will make no lasting impact on the terrorist infrastructure in the area. This is so because the IDF, in attempting to carry out the mission it was given by the government, is acting against a problem that doesn't exist while ignoring the problem that does exist.
The Sharon-Peres government, like every other leftist government since 1993, insists on making a distinction between "good" terrorists from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority and "bad" terrorists from the Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Yet the Palestinians themselves make no such distinctions. Since Yasser Arafat signed his accord with Hamas in Cairo in November 1994, the PA and Fatah have enthusiastically and continuously cooperated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The fact that in all the PA's calls for the release of terrorists from Israeli prisons, it has never distinguished between Fatah terrorists and Hamas or Islamic Jihad terrorists is just one clear example of this cooperation. Wednesday's bomber, for instance, was supposedly from Islamic Jihad and yet he was recently released from an Israeli prison as part of a "confidence-building measure" aimed at strengthening Abbas.
During Binyamin Netanyahu's three-year tenure as prime minister, as well as during the period from the Passover Massacre in 2002 through Arafat's death in November 2004, Israel actually did have a clear and constructive policy towards the Palestinians that in many respects was similar to its policy towards Iran. It was the policy of the Right. During these two periods, Israel dropped its artificial and self-defeating distinction between "good" terrorists and "bad" terrorists and held Arafat and the PA responsible for all acts of terrorism emanating from the PA. But with Abbas's rise to power and Sharon's final transformation from a rightist to a leftist, Israel again sunk into strategic ambiguity.
Indeed, more than anything else, the government's "declaration of war" against Islamic Jihad is just new evidence of the fact that no matter what happens, the Israeli Left will never learn from its mistakes. Rather than contend with reality, it justifies its policies with defeatism and non sequiturs. As the security fence strategy collapses, we are told that we will just have to live with terrorism. In the face of the active collaboration between Fatah and Islamic Jihad and the PA and Hamas, we are told that we must strengthen Abbas.
Tragically, the Right today is in no position to enunciate policy options based on its clear understanding that terrorists must be defeated, not coddled and negotiated with. After Sharon splintered his Likud party, defeated his political camp and pummeled his support base by adopting the policies of the Left, the Right is in shambles.
Sharon's opponents within the Likud are so confused in the aftermath of their failed attempt to advance the date of Likud primaries that they cannot contend with Sharon, let alone the Palestinians. Knesset members from the National Union and the National Religious Party have been missing in action since the expulsion of the Jews of Gaza and northern Samaria. At the grassroots level, activists are too busy devouring the leaders of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, whom they blame for failing to prevent the expulsions, and hating the IDF for carrying out the expulsions, to pay attention to what the Palestinians are doing.
As with the delusional Left, so too the Right, in its weakness, is showing that it has no ability to learn from its mistakes and prefers to sink into neurotic self-obsession rather than act responsibly by pointing out a sane path for Israel to embark upon.
Ironically, Iran is a major beneficiary of Israel's willful strategic blindness. For even if Israel's responsible diplomatic moves against Teheran actually expedite the mullocracy's international isolation, Ahmadinejad can be satisfied with the fact that his Palestinian foot soldiers are destroying Israel for him.