Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Put out the fire now

Put out the fire now

Nadav Shragai

After a week of rising violence, within the framework of what the Palestinians call "popular struggle," this weekend saw even further escalation.

Israel is already experienced with this kind of popular struggle, with memories of painful mistakes from the days of the First and Second Intifadas, for which heavy prices were paid in terms of blood and legitimacy (both at home and abroad). A return to mistaken behavioral patterns and images of soldiers fleeing from stone throwers, which we saw just weeks before last month's election, would bring us to the exact same lows again.

Open fire regulations should be formulated by military personnel, not lawyers. Soldiers should not be banned from opening fire. This is not just about the dignity of soldiers and the State of Israel. Tying the hands of soldiers with restrictive orders and the reflection of this in the media would only encourage violent extremists in Palestinian society. "Restraint," "moderation," "containment of violence" and "low-intensity conflict" are not policies. "Containment" in the past led to more violence. Even when we did contain violence, it rose again until it developed into actual terrorism. Both the First and Second Intifadas, as well as the rocket terror in southern Israel, began "small" before getting bigger, even as we continued and even increased our restraint and containment.

Ahead of the tests we may face in the coming weeks, it is worthwhile for us to refresh the insights we learned the hard way — protecting the lives of soldiers is important, but protecting the lives of civilians is more important; a perceived victory that is not accompanied by a real victory may prove to be a mirage; and deterrence is not just a slogan, but also a means of producing military and political leverage.

Compared to what we have seen in the past from the Palestinians, this level of fire is still low, but this is how large fires are lit in our neighborhood. Even Ariel Sharon learned the hard way that restraint does not always equal strength. He was eventually forced to launch Operation Defensive Shield, which proved that it is possible to defeat terrorism and intifadas militarily. In order to not reach that point again, we must end our containment policy and respond now, while the fire is still small.