- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

The images of Israeli children, their faces bloodied by the blast of another suicide bomber, are still fresh. The earth over their coffins had barely settled before Tuesday's car bombing in Jerusalem, claimed by a radical Palestinian group. Emotions are high, international sympathy for the suffering in Israel great. The right and obligation to defend its citizens against such carnage places a heavy burden on the government of Israel.
One option, now under serious consideration, was presented on July 9 to the government by Israeli Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Shaul Mofaz. The plan is to attack all main installations of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and Ramallah, as a start, according to the defense information service Jane's Foreign Report. It could precipitate a regional war. The plan calls for an Israeli attack immediately following the next major suicide bombing. Israel would deploy 30,000 paratroopers, infantry and armored brigades. Air raids would start the onslaught against the PA installations and the whole operation would last up to a month. At the end of that time, 40,000 armed men would be disarmed, dead or held in detention camps, according to the report, and 300 soldiers might be killed. The generals are not afraid of an armed response on the part of Syria, Jordan and Egypt, and are sure that they could destroy the Iraqis should they choose to respond. It all sounds very optimistic.
On the northern border, the situation remains sensitive. Lebanon's Islamic militant group Hezbollah, which has the backing of Syria and Iran, could be energized by Israel's onslaught. Israel's peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt would go down the drain. The Israeli military, already stretched thin by having to work extended rotations and by taking on the role of policeman at border crossings and in high-security areas, would be put at further risk. High tech industries, already suffering from the current economic downturn could be subject to further withdrawal of foreign investment. Agricultural produce, now hurting from the inability of Palestinian workers to get to the land, would be harmed further. Libya's missiles, Iran's ability to transport chemical and biological weapons, and Iraq and Syria's military response cannot be underestimated. In addition, the generals must consider whether the aims of the offensive to stop terrorist attacks and put the PA where it belongs once and for all would be accomplished.
The calls for a lightning strike on the PA and the building of a wall to separate Israel and the Palestinian Authority are growing louder. Before Israel moves to a military solution, the consequences have to be weighed. The peace process may be dead, but is another Middle East war really to be preferred?


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