- - Sunday, December 13, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

An incredible gathering of around 150 world leaders took place in Paris last week. Although ostensibly traveling to the French capital to discuss climate change, Western leaders took the opportunity to express solidarity with the French people and pledge determination to defeat ISIS. Days later another ISIS-inspired act of terror took place in California; the first such attack on American soil. Following these horrors, the West appears to have finally identified the mortal threat posed by fundamentalist Islam, correctly concluding that it can only be defeated by determined force. But the real test will be whether this clarity actually lasts, and if it is applied consistently across the board.

While the West has commendably discovered a resolute spirit regarding ISIS, the same leaders continue to promote an anachronistic, outdated approach when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, appearing at the Saban Forum in Washington rebuked the Israeli leadership for not reaching a peace deal with Mahmoud Abbas, a sentiment repeated the following day by presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Mr. Kerry charged that without diplomatic “progress” the Palestinian Authority would collapse, leading to war.

This often-used doomsday scenario flaunted by Mr. Kerry is both a scare tactic and quite simply false. More worrisome though, is the lack of coherence it betrays in dealing with the scourge of Islamist terror. For while in the wake of Paris, the West pledges to strike ISIS with a firm hand, Israelis facing daily Palestinian terror attacks are urged to be diplomatically accommodating. The Israel-Palestinian conflict has never been about territory. It is about radical Islam, now more than ever.

ISIS and their ilk have no actual grievances. There is no single event or policy that fuels Islamist terror. The likes of ISIS, al Qaeda and Hamas are simply opposed to all facets of Western existence. And yet even though the struggle against fundamentalist Islam is so clearly a zero sum game, Western thought demands logical causation.

The argument that terror is merely a response to injustice is hardly new. In the wake of 9/11, World Bank President James D Wolfensohn claimed that the war on terror would only be won when we “come to grips with the problem of poverty and thus the sources of discontent.” The quest to find a logical motive for terror is a mirage, a dangerous illusion. Too often it portrays an entirely warped picture of the victim as aggressor. How many times have we heard apologists claim that American adventurism, European colonialism or indeed Israeli settlements are the ‘root cause’ of terrorist atrocities? It is apparently we in the West, who are to blame for our own deaths.

And what makes this self-flagellation so dangerous is that it invariably leads to utterly wrong-headed policy. How many times has Israel come under pressure to make concessions, as a supposed antidote to a relentless campaign of Palestinian violence? How else to explain the folly of America and her allies capitulating to a nuclear deal with Iran, the world’s foremost sponsor of Islamist terror? Time and again, the fallacy that conciliatory concessions by the West can stem terror has proven to be wrong.

In fact, recent history tells us that the reality is quite the reverse. Terrorists, like all bullies, thrive on weakness, exploiting even an ounce of appeasement to the fullest. Israel has learned this the hard way, having retreated from territory under its control on three occasions in the name of peace. Each one is now effectively in the grip of Islamist terror. Defying a United Nations resolution, south Lebanon is de facto controlled by Hezbollah, which points an enormous arsenal of rockets at Israel. Meanwhile, the pain of evacuating the Gaza Strip in 2005 has been exacerbated by the tens of thousands of Hamas rockets which have since followed, and continue to terrorize Israeli citizens. And further south in the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel relinquished to Egypt in 1982, terrorists loyal to ISIS run amok, threatening Egyptian forces and Israel’s border. Bitter experience shows that when Israel abandons territory, it does not gain a friend. In fact, it doesn’t even gain a state to call a neighbor. It invariably is forced to contend with a lawless territorial vacuum filled with terror.

And so the suggestion that Israel should now cede further territory to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state is surely nonsensical in the extreme. Long gone are the days of genuine debate over whether Palestinian statehood would produce an erstwhile partner in peace or a sponsor of terror next door. There can be little doubt that jihadists such as Hamas would attempt to dismantle a Palestinian state to forge another Gaza, and most likely succeed. And if further evidence of this depressing pattern is required, simply observe the chaos which has engulfed Iraq and increasingly Afghanistan since American troops came home. ISIS and the Taliban respectively have taken full advantage of the anarchy, threatening to seize total control.

The evil of ISIS has spurred the West into action, but it must remain resolutely determined to complete the job and defy radical Islam wherever it is found. Western leaders must stop pressuring Israel to make concessions which will only benefit extremists and quickly absorb the Israeli lesson in confronting terror — conciliation and appeasement is never the answer. It is only a recipe for chaos and further suffering.

Ari Harow served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu until earlier this year and is currently President of 3H Global


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