Gen.Amidror to Bush:
Dont Pressure Israel!
NEW YORK – At a special Capitol Hill forum organized by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a senior Israeli military expert urged Israel to refrain from any negotiations with the Palestinian Authority until the PA halts its terrorist war against Israel and actively combats other terrorist groups.
Israeli Army Major-General (ret.) Yaakov Amidror made his remarks at an event attended by more than one hundred Congressional staffers, as part of a series of events under the auspices of U.S. Representative Jim Saxton (R-NJ). It was organized by Sarah Stern, director of the ZOAs Capitol Hill affairs.
General Amidror has served for more than thirty years in the Israeli Army, as head of the National Defense College, head of the research and assessment division of military intelligence, and military secretary to the minister of defense.
In his remarks at the ZOA event, General Amidror said that Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Yasir Arafat launched the current war against Israel, in September 2000, because the Palestinians and other Arabs shared the view that Israel would collapse under a wave of terror; Israels unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 had only reinforced this belief. Therefore, he said, Israels counter-terror strategy must include making clear that no negotiations or concessions will be offered under fire. He urged the Bush administration to refrain from pressuring Israel into measures that could be seen as capitulation and said Israels leadership must maintain its determination not to make any political concessions while under fire.
General Amidror said that prior to any future negotiations, the Palestinian Arab leadership must actually fight terror, not just denounce it. Second, they must change the public discourse about Israel, which would include ending the incitement and inflammatory language used by the Palestinian media and educational system. Third, they must show signs of movement toward accountability, less corruption, and the beginnings of a civil society that will one day become a democracy. Fourth, they must internalize the fact that a final peace agreement will require them to abandon the notion of right of return for all refugees and to acknowledge the right of the Jews to have their own sovereign, Jewish state in the area that is now Israel. Without these prerequisites, any future negotiations are destined to fail.
General Amidror noted that in the first months of the war, Israel left the security organs of the PA untouched in the hopes that they would fight terror. After some time, however, it became apparent that these organs which Israel helped to build and train during the Oslo years were actually participating in the terror.
He said that Israel has no choice but to sometimes intercept and eliminate individual terrorists. Although Israel would prefer to bring terrorists to justice, this is sometimes impossible; in such cases, the terrorists have to be intercepted, not as punishment or revenge, but in order to keep them from committing terrorist acts in the future. Interception is used solely as a last resort, when it is the only way of preventing a terrorist attack.
General Amidror emphasized that Israeli troops must have access to areas where the terrorists are located. In order to fight terror, control on the ground is essential, he explained. This control is needed so that Israel can eliminate, as much as possible, the infrastructure of terror. History teaches that there is no way to fight terror without controlling the areas in which it is occurring and from which it operates. This fact can be seen in the case of Bethlehem: in the months following Israels withdrawal of troops from the city, the terrorist infrastructure managed to rebuild itself and launch attacks on Israelis, proving that control on the ground is crucial.
He said that Israels anti-terror actions are complicated when terrorists use civilians as their shield, forcing Israel to fight terrorism in densely populated areas; on rare occasions, such operations result in civilian casualties. Saying that Israel can fight terror only so long as it guarantees no collateral damage is equivalent to saying, Dont fight terror. Israel places many risks on its soldiers in order to safeguard Palestinian civilians. As important as international legitimacy is, however, Israel cannot stop its war to ensure that it has attained such legitimacy.
General Amidror emphasized that as a result of the Holocaust, Israeli soldiers are taught that ultimately, the Jewish people have no one to rely upon except themselves, and that Jews must not remain passive in the face of aggression.