Why the Recent Elections Won’t Stop Terrorism in Israel

cover art The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against TerrorismThe following post is by Ami Pedahzur, author of The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism.

Two months after the end of the Israeli offensive in Gaza it seems that once again the “war model” for counterterrorism has yielded questionable results. Rockets are still being launched from Gaza into the Israeli heartland. Smuggling of weapons from Egypt to Gaza through tunnels is on the rise, and the Hamas-led cabinet in Gaza seems to be as strong as it was before the operation. Meanwhile, Israel was condemned around the world for the excessive use of force during the operation and for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.

Two major developments have occurred since the operation, which pose new challenges for the Israeli attempt to struggle with the threat of terror but are not likely to change much. In Washington, President Obama was sworn into office and indicated that promoting the peace process in the Middle East is high on his agenda. I believe that soon enough he will understand that hope is one thing while the hard reality of solving problems in the Middle East is a completely different matter. The February 09 general elections in Israel brought a clear triumph to the hard-liners. The new cabinet will be led by Binyamin Netanyahu, a prolific author on terrorism and an advocate of the war model.

From his first day in office Netanyahu will be under enormous conflicting pressures. On the one hand, the United States and the international community will push for progress in the talks with the Palestinians and for the relief for the civilian population in Gaza. On the other, Netanyahu’s coalition partners, who represent an extreme hawkish line, will advocate the further expansion of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and an even more forceful response to Palestinian violence.

This could not have happened at a worse time for the Israeli security establishment. Mossad and the military intelligence are overstretched. They utilize every available resource for following Iran’s race to acquire a nuclear bomb while at the same time monitoring the increasing power of Iran’s proxies in the Arab world, most notably Syria and Hezbollah. They also follow with vigilance the escalation of the Jihadi surge in Pakistan and Afghanistan and constantly assess the potential implications of these developments for the safety of Israelis and Jews around the world. Once again the General Security Service (GSS) and the army will carry the burden of monitoring the situation and executing policies in the West Bank and Gaza. Without a revolutionary agenda on the part of the new cabinet that will force them to offer new approaches to dealing with terrorism, they are likely to follow their old protocols, which they consider to be successful. This means more of the same.

Under these circumstances almost any possible scenario for the near future indicates that despite the failure of the war model over the last sixty years–with the war in Gaza being the most recent example–Israel under Netanyahu will not deviate from it. Despite the expected international pressures, the gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinians, who are now divided between two entities–Gaza led by Hamas and the West Bank led by Fatah–are only widening. The next wave of Palestinian violence seems inevitable, and so does the Israeli response. It will probably take Israel many more years to conclude that the war model was a failure. Unfortunately, this is small comfort to the victims of this model on both sides of the conflict.

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