For a long-term halt to violence

It does not take a clairvoyant to predict that a cease-fire will be used by terrorists to recover.

Kassam is jihad  298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Kassam is jihad 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
It is hard to oppose a cease-fire. The shooting stops, war is averted, both sides can relax and go about their lives - what's not to like? We all sincerely wish things were this simple, and that Israel could afford to simply celebrate that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have agreed on a "cease-fire." The supposed halt to violence could, indeed, develop into a truly substantive change. What is needed is to address the fundamental context of the fighting. If that does not happen, however - and there are no signs now that this is happening - a cease-fire, even if it held, could in the long run be worse than the status quo. First, however, the cease-fire is not holding. Not only on Saturday, in the hours before it was to come into effect, but even into Sunday, after it was supposed to be in force, Kassam rockets continued to be fired into Israel. Hamas even took responsibility for these attacks, claiming that Israel had violated the cease-fire by continuing military operations in Judea and Samaria. Israel argues that the cease-fire was only supposed to apply in Gaza. The reason for such Israeli insistence is clear: On Friday night, an Israeli operation destroyed a bomb factory in Nablus. The IDF not only discovered bomb belts to be used in suicide bombings, but children's toys, such as stuffed animals, that had been rigged with explosives. Under these circumstances, it does not take a clairvoyant to predict that a cease-fire will be used by terrorists to recover from the IDF's military pressure. How can allowing the terrorists a pause to refresh serve the cause of peace? Alone, it cannot. But there is a way that a cease-fire could be part of a more comprehensive policy that does bring down the likelihood of renewed bloodshed. To stop terrorism, Israel must address both the capabilities and the strategic environment of the terrorists. There is no point in a cease-fire if the border between Egypt and Gaza remains a conduit for a constant flow of weaponry to Hamas and other terrorist groups. Plainly, in such a circumstance, any time-out is only a precursor to a renewal of intensified violence down the road. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has been rightly critical of the blindness of those who allowed Hizbullah to transform southern Lebanon into a giant launching pad for missiles against Israel. Yet other security officials, such as Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, have been warning for months that this is precisely what is happening now in Gaza. A cease-fire that does not address the need for Egypt to police its border will only exacerbate this problem. Not only will the arms keep flowing in, but Israeli military operations will no longer seek and destroy bomb factories and other elements of the terrorist infrastructure. Terror groups will be able to freely expand their preparatory work for renewed attacks, untroubled by the IDF. Sealing the border would make a difference, increasing the pressure for real peace, but it, too, is not enough. What is also necessary is to break the international diplomatic cycle that creates an incentive to attack Israel in the first place. This cycle is well known: Palestinians attack, Israel responds, sooner or later Israel mistakenly kills Palestinian civilians, the UN Security Council condemns Israel (with or without a US veto), accomplishing the terrorist's purpose of further isolating us. This blame-the-victim cycle actively rewards terrorism, as Ambassador Dan Gillerman pointed out during the recent debate on a lopsidedly anti-Israel General Assembly resolution. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 has many problems, among them the lack of monitoring and enforcement of the embargo supposedly imposed on weaponry for Hizbullah, but it does provide the beginnings of a model for breaking the cycle in the Palestinian sphere. It blames Hizbullah for provoking the war with its cross-border attack on July 12, and does, at least in theory, put the onus on Syria to end the arms flow to Hizbullah. The same onus must be put on Egypt to shut down the smuggling of weaponry into Gaza. Further, instead of leaping into action to condemn Israel, the UN and the Quartet should ensure that the Palestinians pay a steep diplomatic price for initiating attacks against Israel. A cease-fire that is leveraged to advance these shifts in the strategic environment could be worthwhile. Without such a change in direction, giving the terrorists breathing space to rearm would truly be worse than useless.