Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
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Israeli political negotiations with Islamic terrorist groups are possible

Israel should not tactically negotiate with Palestinian terrorists

Israel must return to the policy of no negotiations with terrorists, refusing even to exchange Israeli hostages. Released Islamic terrorists kill more Israelis than an exchange might save. Israel is at war with Muslim terrorists, and all Israelis are at the front; Israeli will die, no matter before or after political negotiations with terrorists, before or after the Islamic terrorists are released. Only the number of Israeli casualties, statistics, matters. Israel giving in to terrorist demands provokes more Islamic terrorism. The Israeli problem is two-fold: not only is hostage-taking profitable, it also is safe for the Arabs. Islamic terrorists know they will be ransomed if Israel catches them. Israel should issue an ultimatum to any country Israeli holding hostages or POWs, warning it of an impeding assault of Israel Defense Forces. That might turn Arabs against taking Jewish hostages. Israel should also return to the declared but never consistently practiced[20] policy of hunting down every Muslim perpetrator of terrorist acts. Repress Palestinian terrorists’ families and neighbors, take Arab hostages by rounding up villagers, and blow up a couple of Muslim universities. Not fair? Neither is any war means. Suffice it be efficient, and serve Israel well.

Kidnapping of Israelis has become a business for Islamic terrorists: there is risk involved, but the profit is also there. By refusing to negotiate with Muslim terrorists, Israel would cut out the profit. Kidnapping will be like murdering Israeli civilians: terrible but with no particular benefit, like getting other Islamic terrorists released.[21] A no-negotiations with Islamic terrorists policy prevents Arab-Israeli escalation and reduces the Israeli fighting.

Compromise means something to states or a stable political groups, inclined to keep their word for the sake of credibility. It means nothing to loose entities like the PLO that sprout new radical branches as soon as the main body moderates. Compromise works as a tactical device in ordinary warfare; for example, cease-fires often prevent huge losses. Casualties from Islamic terrorism are statistically insignificant, and the political and military damage for Israel of tactical disengagement outweighs the importance of Israeli lives saved.

The charge that Israeli no-negotiation policy is like marching a nineteenth century army straight into withering cannon fire is superficial. Islamic terrorist acts usually have little material effect on Israel, more psychological than otherwise. Acts of Islamic terror kill fewer Israelis than car accidents. The Islamic terrorists will run out of Arab suicide recruits before Israeli society collapses—until the Islamic terrorists start using WMD or strike expensive infrastructure. Muslim terrorist enemy must see the futility of his actions against Israel and Israel must resist it psychologically by refusing to make concessions, even if that means small losses in life and material. If Islamic terrorism inflicts significant losses, it is conventional warfare, has more trouble maneuvering, and is vulnerable to Israel Defense Forces.

A logical extension of an Israeli no-ransom policy is the Israeli demand that other countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, not pay ransom to Islamists. It is well known that Muslim terrorist groups extort semi-official donations from some. Whoever abets crime out of fear is culpable in Israeli eyes. Any payment to Islamic terrorists prejudices Israeli interests and should cease.

Ransom is nothing new. The ancient law obliges Jews to ransom their compatriots if captured. The Vatican ransomed three hundred Roman Jews in World War II with thirty pounds of gold—down payment on a hundred-pound payoff to the Nazis—though twelve thousand more were extradited and murdered. Trucks and gasoline bought other Jewish lives from the Nazis, a policy some say benefited mostly rich, well-connected families. All Jews are equally important for the Israeli government. Saving some by giving in to Islamic terrorist demands at the expense of other Israelis in the future makes sense only in politics where short-sighted Israeli governments mortgage the future to present expedience.

Political negotiations with anti-Israeli terrorist groups are possible

Since Islamic terrorism is a form of Arab-Israeli war, hostilities need not cease before negotiations begin. There are no moderates in Islamic terrorist organizations like Hamas or Hezbollah, and their “political wings” are designed to lure Israel into dialogue. Israel should therefore negotiate with those terrorists like any other political structure that pursues its ends by military means. Negotiations with terrorists are both tactical and strategic. On the tactical level—hostage exchanges, for example—no Israeli compromise is possible. Prisoners are not exchanged during a battle, and opposing commanders do not negotiate partial withdrawal for ammunition. The case against Israeli tactical compromise with Muslim enemies is even stronger in Islamic terrorist warfare, since either side can gain the edge in negotiations by taking a few Israeli civilian hostages. On the strategic level, there is no reason for Israel to avoid political negotiations with Arabs, even with Islamic militants. If the distinction between the two kinds of negotiation seems blurred, it is in fact. That happens because Israeli government's political considerations skew Israel Defense Forces' tactical calculations. Israel can compromise in a terrorist war, where actions or demands are paced to the response they elicit, but then Israel must approach compromise from an offensive perspective. Negotiating for Israeli hostages, Israel should offer not an exchange but rather a pledge not to take out Muslim enemy bases or civilian targets. As things are now, the Islamic terrorists stay one step ahead of Israelis: for every action Israel takes (like holding prisoners), they threaten new action unless the previous act is rectified (terrorist prisoners released). Negotiating offensively, Israel would take the lead: no compromise on repairing the past or on future plans but possibly on escalation and retaliation for concomitant Islamic adjustments. That Israeli policy would signal a return to the reality of Arab-Israeli war, where the stronger and the more resolute wins.

Israel has not benefited from a single settlement in Israel's modern history. The armistice of 1948 was concluded after Israel drove the Arab enemy out. The Sinai treaty won Israel no significant economic benefits in return for a surrender to Egyptian demands. Israel should negotiate only to enforce her terms. Israel should not seek to stop the Islamic aggression; rather Israel should leave the Arabs desperate to negotiate. Israel might well escalate her own demands annually and actualize them de facto in Palestine until the Arabs give in to mitigate further damage. Israel could start by carving out one square mile of Palestinian territory for every Israeli Islamic terrorists kill.

[20] Not even all the terrorists who participated in the Munich affair were killed. The search at least for one of them was at some point abandoned, and at least one planner, Amin al Hindi, now officially works in the Palestinian government.

[21] Israel’s miscalculation culminated in the Tannenbaum exchange, when more than a hundred Arabs—many of them Islamic terrorists—were freed for one Israeli