- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

Suddenly, the Middle East is embroiled in a war again. No, not the sort of low-level, terrorist attack-and-limited retaliation that has passed for “peace” in the Mideast for many years. This is a shooting war, with armies on the move; widespread air, artillery and missile attacks on military targets and civilian infrastructure; and the sizable death, destruction and dislocation of refugees and foreign nationals that typifies a conflict that may yet become far wider.

Naturally, there is an effort to assign blame. The Bush administration has parried international efforts to blame Israel by correctly noting that two terrorist organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah, launched the attacks and kidnappings of Israeli soldiers that set this war in motion.

The G-8 meeting over the weekend (which wound up being, as the diplomats say, “seized” with this matter to an unanticipated degree) blames what the joint communique calls “extremists.” That euphemism apparently allowed the various governments to blame others, as well. These properly should include Iran and Syria, the states whose sponsorship — along with that of Saudi Arabia in at least the case of Hamas — is helping the two terrorist groups to grow in size and lethality.

Others, notably the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, prefer a moral equivalence that places at least as much blame on Israel as on its enemies. Such sentiments are evident in calls for an immediate cease-fire — which President Bush has, to his credit, thus far strongly resisted. Unfortunately, the G-8 communique negotiated for the United States by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns is ambiguous enough on this point to allow some to claim it does, in fact, demand a cease-fire.

The present conflict might have been avoided had successive Israeli administrations not allowed conditions to be created which made it inevitable. This is not the same as blaming Israel for responding to the recent provocations.

Rather, it is to say Israel’s previous behavior — undertaken by Labor, Likud and Kadima-led governments alike, in the fatuous belief that ceding territory to terrorists would result in something other than more terror — produced, predictably, just the opposite. Incredibly, despite the whirlwind Israel is now reaping, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has recently reiterated his determination to give up virtually all the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem — an area vastly larger than the combined territories of South Lebanon and the Gaza Strip that his predecessors, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, surrendered respectively to Israel’s enemies in 2000 and 2005.

This is all the more extraordinary since Israel has learned at great cost that turning over territory to terrorists has only ensured more attacks against the Jewish State from those areas. And the terrorist strikes are indisputably more deadly, as well.

For example, the attack by Hamas operatives that resulted in the capture of the first Israeli soldier three weeks ago involved digging a tunnel hundreds of meters under border fences, coming up behind Israel Defense Forces (IDF) positions. Such a sophisticated and lethal operation makes a mockery of the idea of “disengagement,” based upon the notion good fences will make, if not good neighbors, at least ones with which Israel can live. Under present and foreseeable circumstances, the only hope of discouraging more — and far more destructive — terror attacks in the future is if the Israelis control both sides of the border.

Similarly, many observers have been surprised by the number and range of the weapons used against Israeli civilians and, in at least one case, against an IDF naval vessel off the Lebanese coast. Here again, the only surprise is that “experts” are surprised: Ever since Israel abandoned its security zone (and allies) in South Lebanon and relinquished control over the Rafah and other crossings between Egypt and Gaza, there has been a steady infusion of advanced armaments and skilled personnel from terror organizations like the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and al Qaeda able to operate them, and to train local terrorists to do the same.

Bad as the resulting attacks on Israel have been — involving populated areas as far from the front lines as Haifa, Tiberius and Ashkelon — far worse would be in the offing were Israel now to compound the errors that brought on the present crisis. Today’s war would pale by comparison with what will inevitably ensue should the Jewish State turn over control of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem to those now operating against Israel from Gaza and Lebanon.

In that case, every major Israeli population center would be within range of artillery, mortar and missiles, as would virtually all Israel’s airports, major roads and infrastructure. And it is equally predictable that if Iranian, al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas forces were next allowed to operate with impunity from the West Bank, as well as from Lebanon and Gaza, they would use that safe haven not only to pursue Israel’s destruction, but that of the Free World more generally — including the United States.

It is time for the U.S. and the Free World to adopt anew the Bush Doctrine (as opposed to the negotiation uber alles “Burns Doctrine” promoted by the undersecretary of state). Essentially, that means no territory for terrorists.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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