Monday, April 14, 2008

How Israel can win the symbolic war

Palestine Today reports (autotranslated):
Iranian press reports quoted a prominent leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah that the next confrontation between the party and Israel - when it occurs - will be transformed from the defensive to the offensive, where elements of Hezbollah will be fighting the Israelis "behind the lines" "For the first time since the year 1948 Within Palestine itself. "

The anonymous official, who is "a member of Hezbollah's Shura Council," threatened the transfer of clashes to the cities, towns and Israeli settlements themselves.
Ya Libnan reports it as well, with a caveat that Hezbollah saying that it will not begin hostilities:
A high-ranking Hezbollah official has said the party would launch an offensive on Israel in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948 in case the Jewish state wages a new war.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, made the statement in an interview with Syrian magazine "al-Hakika," the Iranian News Agency Fars reported.

"We would not initiate war but in case they wage any war in the future ...there will be a counter attack behind the front lines...and for the first time since 1948 in Palestine itself," the official reportedly said.
As with all the recent wars, the value is symbolic and not strategic. Being able to step foot in "Palestine" would be one more step in erasing Israel's psychological deterrence towards the Arab world's aggressive wishes. Just as when Fatah began, the terrorists want to goad the larger Arab world into attacking Israel and a major means to achieve that is to make Israel look like it is vulnerable and can be defeated. Breaking through the blue line would go a long way towards that goal.

Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations also need to recruit members from the tens of millions of radical Muslims worldwide and in order to do that they need to convince them that it is possible to win. This is one reason (besides the ever-important Arab pride) why every war that Israel wins in a less decisive manner than 1967 is spun as an Arab "victory".

Israel's defense forces need to understand that they need to win not only military victories but also symbolic victories. This is not easy when the Arab bar for "victory" has been lowered as far as it has.

This is why Israel needs to work harder on the symbolism front.

The words that the PA's Abbas Zaki said recently on Lebanese TV point towards what Israel has to do. He said, "The important thing is that in any operation, Israel will pay a price. We don't want cases in which you don't kill even a chicken, but Israel kills 20 of you. I salute any operation that makes Israel pay a heavy price."

This means that Israel need to make sure that every operation hurts the terrorists and their supporters, not only in a military sense but also in a symbolic sense. The rules need to be changed in order to accomplish this. And the easiest, most painless, most humane and most effective way to do it would be to take land each time Israel is forced to respond to attacks. The amount isn't important, the symbolism is. If this policy is done consistently and automatically, the incentive for terror attacks decreases dramatically. It is simply Pavlovian - the Arab people would see that every attack is counterproductive and that they lose something tangible after every outrage. It is a real implementation of "land for peace."

Hezbollah considers Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon to be a victory; a reoccupation of even a square kilometer cannot be spun away. Hamas likewise would need to re-evaluate the rocket weapon if each one resulted in the loss of territory, even if the land is bare desert. Just the fact that Israelis move the fence - a completely symbolic move - would cause many terror supporters to think twice before the next attack. Right now all they are losing is people - a commodity that they do not value; in fact a commodity that is worth more to them dead than alive. People are nothing more than manufactured weapons to them.

Land is not something they can be as cavalier or cynical about. The symbolic value of losing land as a result of evil makes that evil act much less palatable. The symbolic value of re-establishing a Jewish community in Gaza - explicitly as a result of X number of ongoing terror attacks - would be incalculable, and would do more to stop terror than killing 10,000 terrorists.