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Copyright 2003 Jerusalem Post
November 7

HEADLINE: Column One: Negotiating with terrorists


Thursday morning we buried former Jerusalem Post editor David Bar-Illan in Jerusalem. I was blessed to have known David and to have learned from him when we worked together in then prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's bureau. I was a young foreign policy aide and David headed the bureau's Policy Planning and Information Division.

David taught me many things. But if there was one lesson that stands out above the rest it was his insistence that I trust my common sense. Common sense dictated that when terrorist leaders and operatives tell us that they wish to destroy Israel, we must believe them and act accordingly. Common sense demanded that if the price of a photo-op of soldiers withdrawing unilaterally from South Lebanon or of a handshake on the White House lawn was the imperiling of the State of Israel and the lives of its citizens, the photo-op should be politely, but firmly rejected.

On Sunday, the cabinet will meet to decide whether to provide the Israeli people with a photo-op. The ministers will vote on whether to accept or reject a negotiated deal with Hizbullah. The parameters of the deal are that Israel will release from our prisons former Hizbullah leader Abdel Karim Obeid, former Amal militia chief Mustafa Dirani, 17 other Hizbullah terrorists who killed IDF soldiers, and more than 400 Palestinian terrorists, some of whom were directly involved in the murder of Israelis. In exchange, Israel will receive the bodies of IDF soldiers Adi Avitan, Omar Sawayid and Benny Avraham who were kidnapped from their base in Israel and murdered by Hizbullah in October 2000 and Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannenbaum who the same month was abducted and brought to Lebanon by Hizbullah while carrying out legally dubious business dealings in a Gulf state.

The benefit to Israel to be accrued from this deal is clear. Four Israeli families, whose lives three years ago became a nightmare, will finally be given some solace. The Avitan, Avraham and Sawayid families will at last be able to bury their sons and the Tannenbaum family will be allowed to embrace their father and, perhaps, escort him to the court room where he will be put on trial for his suspected criminal activities that led to his abduction.

Every family in Israel can take a measure of pride from the fact that our government does not shirk its responsibility for our soldiers who sacrificed their lives in defense of the country. Every Israeli can rest assured that no matter what we do in our private lives, the Government of Israel will not abandon us to our fates.

Or so it would seem if one were to take a narrow and wildly superficial view of the deal now in the offing. If we take a wider, and, indeed a common sense approach to the proposed deal, we will see another reality entirely.

Hizbullah is a terrorist organization dedicated the physical liquidation of the State of Israel. Since its inception, its leadership has indoctrinated its people from the cradle to the grave that their goal in life is to make war on Israel and the Jewish people until both are no more.

Every single thing that Hizbullah does, from "educating" children in schools to become human bombs, to running its mosques, its television station, its drug running operations and its guerrilla and terrorist training camps is devoted first and foremost to bringing about the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.

No Hizbullah leader, from Hassan Nasrallah to Obeid to their predecessors and their Iranian sponsors has ever denied that the destruction of Israel is their aim - to the contrary. And it is not just Israeli Jews that offend them. It is all Jews, everywhere. So it is that Hizbullah with its boss, Iran, committed the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. It was Hizbullah, with Iran that blew up the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires is 1994 that left 86 Jews dead and the same week blew up a plane over Panama killing 22 people who it claimed were Jewish businessmen.

And, lest we forget, Hizbullah does not limit its goals merely to destroying the Jewish state. It is also carrying its war to the United States. Since the US-led invasion of Iraq, Hizbullah, reportedly together with Al Qaida has been sending its terrorists to fight the Coalition forces in Iraq. Hizbullah, which committed several massive terror attacks against US forces in Lebanon including the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and the kidnapping of US citizens and personnel, today is known to operate terror cells in the US as well as Canada and Latin America.

Israelis have always known that this is what Hizbullah is about. Yet, for an eighteen month period in 1999-2000, under the spell of Yossi Beilin and his friends in the EU financed Four Mothers organization, we managed to forget our common sense and delude ourselves into believing that all Hizbullah was after was the IDF's retreat from Lebanon. Beilin and his associates promised us that right after we left the security zone, Hizbullah would unilaterally disarm and become a political party in the Lebanese parliament. This lapse in reason brought about the IDF's precipitous and strategically disastrous retreat from Southern Lebanon.

It took no time at all for Hizbullah to point out the price we paid for taking a break from reality. The Palestinians, taking heart from our mad dash out of Dodge, were inspired to launch their terror war against us. Indeed, Arafat began planning his campaign almost immediately after the IDF retreat.

Hizbullah is not only a symbol for the Palestinians. It trains Palestinian terrorists and smuggles arms to them. It has its own terror cells operating in Israeli Arab towns and in PA ruled areas. Its forces in Southern Lebanon continue to attack the Northern Israel with anti-aircraft shells, artillery and Katyusha rockets just like in the good old days. The only difference of course is that Hizbullah is now perched directly at the border and its arsenal now includes 10,000 long-range rockets that can hit Hadera and perhaps Netanya.

Nasrallah's deputy last week announced that Hizbullah would now commence operations to "liberate" the Golan Heights for its patron Syria.

Given the nature and aims of Hizbullah, the question must be asked. Why is Nasrallah negotiating with Israel today? We know that the kidnapping of the three soldiers and Tannenbaum was directed precisely at forcing Israel to negotiate with Hizbullah to secure their release. That is, the whole point of their abduction was to force Israel to conduct negotiations with Hizbullah.

But why would Hizbullah want to negotiate with Israel if its purpose is to cause our physical liquidation? Here too, the answer is quite simple.

Hizbullah wishes to negotiate with Israel because it views negotiations as another tactic in its overall war. It views negotiations as a way to weaken Israel and strengthen itself. To understand this, we must consider what Hizbullah stands to gain from the deal.

First of all, it gains legitimacy for its terror tactics. If Israel plays ball with a group of kidnappers, then that means that kidnapping is a good idea and should be used again and again. Even as the negotiations reached their critical stage this week, Nasrallah continued to threaten to kidnap Israelis in the future. The same day the deal was announced, an IDF patrol on the northern border uncovered four roadside bombs that had been laid on its path. The Northern Command explained that the placement and nature of the explosives indicate that Hizbullah was planning to launch an attack against an IDF patrol similar to the one they conducted in October 2000 when they abducted Avitan, Suwaid and Avraham.

The fact that Israel is willing to give more than four hundred live terrorists for one live Israeli businessman means that now Hizbullah knows that every Israeli they can get their hands on is a prime target. If the government agrees to pay such a high price for Tannenbaum, the suspected felon, the lives of all Israelis everywhere are at risk. If his release costs Israel 400 terrorists, how much will Israel agree to pay to secure the release of an Israeli family abducted while on safari in Africa or a honeymooning couple kidnapped while trekking through South America? Today we are agreeing to play this game. Tomorrow we will see the price.

Then there is the issue of Hizbullah's regional posture. As Channel 10's military commentator Allon Ben David put it on Wednesday night, "Nasrallah comes out of this deal a regional hero. He can now say to the Palestinians, the Jordanians and the Egyptians - 'You want something from Israel? Come to me.'" In achieving this deal with Israel, Hizbullah will be able to report to the entire Muslim world that it successfully brought Israel to its knees - again.

It has been reported that the US is encouraging the Sharon government to accept the deal in the interest of "regional stability."

But, as terror expert Professor Ely Carmon explains, if the Americans want stability, this is the wrong way to go about it. In his words, "The deal is likely to cause the kidnap of American soldiers in Iraq, just as occurred in the 1980s in Lebanon." So in exchange for the peace of mind of four families, who have been victimized by a venal terrorist organization bent on the destruction of our country and people, all of us will be placed in jeopardy. We will grant legitimacy to our sworn enemies and augment their power in profound and immediate ways.

It is impossible to envy the ministers, who will be called on Sunday to make a heartbreaking decision. Will they prefer the fortunes of four families who are suffering unspeakable sorrow over the well-being of every single Israeli citizen, and the lives of Coalition forces in Iraq even as the former is staring them in the face and the latter has yet to grasp the coming storm? David Bar Illan had the presence of mind and common sense that made him, as his son Jeremy eulogized yesterday, "a Jewish superhero." He would undoubtedly have seen this deal as the poison tipped spear it is. Can we not expect and demand that our government follow in his deep footsteps and use their common sense?

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