Why War Won't Work For Israel
By Neill Lochery

LONDON (UPI) - We will only be able to conduct talks after they've been battered, explained Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week, when asked how he intends to negotiate with the Palestinians.
A respected Israeli colleague recently told me that the Palestinians need another Six-Day War to instill fear of the Israeli military. They will only make peace when they realize they are no match for the Israeli military machine, he said.
This generation of Palestinians, he added, have not seen the Israeli army on the offensive. Their memories are of Israeli soldiers dodging stones in the West Bank during the Intifada, and of Hezbollah videos, broadcasting on Arab television successful attacks on Israeli targets in Lebanon.
This argument is based on the concept that once the Palestinians suffer a military defeat, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would return to the negotiation table agreeing to Israeli terms for peace.
In other words, Israel's instigation of a full-scale war represents the best strategy for achieving peace. Unfortunately, the proponents of this argument misunderstand several key points.
The basic premise behind this argument is false. History confirms that a hardening, not a softening, of the Arab political position has followed each Israeli military victory. Why should it be any different this time?
There is a strong tradition in Arab culture of only seeking peace from a position of strength. Peace without honor is unworthy in Arab eyes.
The international implications and form of any Israeli-Palestinian war remains unclear. A likely scenario is that the war will not be over in a few weeks, as many suggest. Rather Palestinian resistance could drag on for months, or even years.
The war will not only be fought solely in Israel, but throughout the world. Many Western governments are guilty of not doing enough to dismantle the infrastructure of radical Palestinian groups.
While security services concentrate on Islamic fundamentalists, other Palestinian groups that are no less radical continue to slip through the net.
These groups continue to be well financed, well organized, highly disciplined, and crucially dispersed. As a result, major attacks on Jewish political and economic targets across the globe are likely.
The role of other Arab states during such a war remains unclear. Syria would remain outside initially because it loathes Arafat almost as much as Israel. But Syria may enter at a later stage if Palestinian casualties become unacceptably high.
Egypt has indicated that it would move its Third Army into the demilitarized Sinai Desert on Israel's southern border.
The wild card is Iraq. It is easy to see Saddam Hussein intervening, particularly if a major attack from the United States was imminent.
This introduces another major complication for Israel. Does it want to antagonize its major ally by launching a war on the Palestinians just as the United States is seeking Arab support for toppling Saddam?
Next comes the casualty issue. Would the international community apply political pressure on Israel, preventing it from achieving a military victory, as the death toll increases?
No war ever goes according to plan, but experts have predicted a war between Israel and Palestine would approximately 1,200 Israelis and 12,000-15,000 Palestinians dead.
Which side could absorb casualties better? The answer says much about the misconception of offensive Israeli military action proponents.
Palestinians genuinely view this war as their war of independence and see the sacrifice of their loved ones as necessary, as the family of a suicide attacker confirmed on TV last week.
In Israel, many ask why soldiers should die to regain territory that their political leaders are planning to give back anyway. This is a consequence of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer to Arafat at Camp David in July 2000 to hand over 93 percent of the West Bank.
Israel is caught between a rock and a hard place. The present strategy of using measured responses to Palestinian attacks is clearly not working. Launching a major attack on the Palestinian Authority, however, is fraught with danger and does not guarantee any future political gains.
Leafing through books on war strategy this week, from the ancient classic Sun Tzu's The Art of War by Sun Tzu to Carfl von Clausewitz's On War, I could find no theoretical support for launching war when its potential military and political gains are so uncertain.
Israel may find itself in a war against its will, but to suggest that an offensive war is the best strategic option for achieving peace is misplaced to say the least.
Neill Lochery is director of the Centre for Israeli Studies at University College London
Copyright © 2002 United Press International. All rights reserved.

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