Local News

Springer Journal: Terrorism In The Middle East

Posted April 9, 2002

— During the past two weeks the world has once again witnessed terrorism, violence, and heavy military fighting in the Middle East. A peaceful solution has evaded the two adversaries -- Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, the beneficiary of this current tragedy just may be Saddam Hussein!

Like most Americans, I simply cannot understand what motivates an individual to strap a bomb to his or her body, walk into a crowded arena such as a hotel or coffee shop, and detonate the bomb killing innocent people as well as his or her self. The passion and hatred of others cannot be spontaneous. It certainly has to be nurtured over time.

These "suicide bombers" must certainly be characterized as terrorists who seem unable or unwilling to find the common ground so necessary for peace and stability in this troubled region. How sad that once again religion becomes the reason for violence and bloodshed.

Following the horrific attacks on America last Sept. 11, we see "terrorism" through a different lens. It is a much more focused lens than pre-September 11. Although there have been other terrorist attacks on our soil, we did not believe it would/could happen on such a vast scope here. But it did!

Israel, as the only democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by Arab nations has lived with the threat of terror for all of its existence. I am not an Israeli apologist, but I can understand why retaliation for these cowardly terrorist attacks is necessary to prevent such future attacks. Here at home, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has noted that the only way to stop terrorists is a good offense against them. In other words, attack them before they attack you. That appears to be the Israeli thought pattern as well.

The Palestinians have understandable grievances that need to be addressed: a secure Palestinian state, concerns relevant to Israeli settlements, jobs, education, and others. But they also need viable leadership to insure that terrorism is neither supported nor encouraged. They also need a leader willing to work with the Israelis, the other Arab nations and the western world to promote peace and stability.

Yasser Arafat as the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority can no longer, if he ever could, provide that leadership. Unfortunately, the heavy handed Israeli military response has served to enhance Arafat's stature among many Arabs throughout the region. The Israeli military response has also further distanced Israel from most of its Arab neighbors. It appears to many as the sledge hammer to kill the gnat analogy.

Israel has one of the most sophisticated and capable intelligence services in the world. While I am not privy to their intelligence, I suspect they know the locations of the key Palestinian terrorists bases of operation. I also suspect they could have been much more "surgical" with their retaliatory raids.

It may have taken longer to eliminate the terrorist cells and those who train and support suicide bombers. It may have been less visible to a population seeking revenge. Importantly though, it would have avoided much of the collateral damage that has killed non-combatants, and it also would have eliminated unnecessary damage to some historic and religious structures.

It may also have softened the anti-Israel opinion around the world. President Bush has asked Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw his forces and seek a peaceful solution. He has dispatched Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region to help dampen the rhetoric, to help curb the terrorist attacks, and to restrict the Israeli military operations. His mission will not be easy.

Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat have been enemies for decades. They are the wrong two guys to be negotiating a peaceful settlement to an extremely critical situation.

Despite his recent support among Arabs, Arafat simply does not exert control over many Palestinians. He cannot issue a statement demanding an end to all terrorist activities that would carry weight across a broad spectrum. He has wasted his political capital over the years.

Likewise Sharon has considerable baggage inhibiting his success as a negotiator. Sharon is less the politician and diplomat, and more the former Army general who has clashed off and on with the Palestinians and others for many years. I see him as one who is willing to use military force before diplomacy even has a chance to fail.

As I said earlier. Secretary Powell's mission will not be easy.

Ironically. the current volatile situation in the Middle East will make it much more difficult to isolate Saddam Hussein and effect a much needed regime change in Iraq. Consequently, Israeli security and their deserved right to exist as a nation may have been dealt a setback.

The heightened animosity toward Israel by neighboring Arab states will inhibit to some degree the United States, Great Britain and others from moving quickly and swiftly against Iraq and its continuing goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Weapons that one day could be used against Israel.


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