Nobel Laureate Alexander Solzyhentisyn, in his acceptance speech before the Nobel Prize Committee in 1970, declared that the 20th Century had been one long record of appeasement by the West in favor of totalitarianism. “The spirit of Munich is not a thing of the past,” he stated sardonically, “…it is predominant in the 20th Century. The entire civilized world trembles as snarling barbarism suddenly re-emerges and moves into the attack. And the West finds that it has nothing to fight with but smiles and concessions.”
During the half hour on the morning of July 13, when Katyusha rockets slammed into the northern Israeli town of Safed, those words took on a profound meaning for me. The news hit hard, since two of the Hizbullah-launched rockets landed within 400 yards of my Israeli home in the center of Safed’s Old City. But beyond my personal anguish, I became aware of an implacable reality. In the 58 years since the War of Independence, Safed had not experienced a single terrorist incident, let alone a major rocket attack. Violence, of the type experienced in other parts of the country, had never been a feature of life in the town. But the explosion of seven Katyushas in the same hour, resulting in one death and 30 injuries, swept the once-tranquil mountain village, suddenly and traumatically, into the turbulence of the 21st Century and the worldwide struggle between freedom and Islamo-fascism.
No one should have been surprised. In the six years since Israel’s retreat from the fourteen-mile security zone in southern Lebanon, Hizbullah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, had created an arsenal of nearly 13,000 missiles poised against Israel’s northern towns. Anyone who had visited Israel’s border with Lebanon and witnessed the garish, provocative displays of yellow flags, posters, fortifications and abundant weaponry, in places only 50 feet distant, knew that it would be just a matter of time before Hizbullah’s juggernaut of destruction would be unleashed against the north.
The Hizbullah terrorists who launched those rockets were, of course, not measuring their place in history. They were capitalizing on what they perceived to be instability, weakness and distraction among Israeli leaders. The kidnapping in Gaza and subsequent Israeli retaliation offered a convenient feint and opportunity to instill a realization in exasperated Israelis that the Arab wars against Israel did not end in 1973, 1993 or with the collapse of the second Palestinian intifada. Those wars continue and will continue as long as Israel exists.
That is the sad message delivered by the Katyushas that battered Safed that Thursday morning. For no matter what Israel does – whether it be the signing of peace treaties, withdrawal from disputed territory, the securing of United Nations guarantees of its borders or the policing by international peacekeepers – nothing will stem the tide of hatred and revulsion in the Arab and Muslim world against the Jewish state. Arab revanche, it must finally be understood, cannot be answered with either appeasement or accommodation; it can only be met with crushing force.
It is this reality that has yet to sink into the mindset of both Israeli and American leaders . Having been burned by the conclusive failure of the Oslo peace process, Ehud Barak, six years ago, piled tragedy upon mistake. He ordered an evacuation from the Lebanon security zone, abandoning the IDF’s loyal allies – the Christian-dominated South Lebanese Army – without so much as a whisper of assurance by the Lebanese government of calm on its southern border. While witnessing the build up of the Hizbullah and Hamas arsenals over five years, Barak’s successor, Ariel Sharon, made the second calamitous mistake of withdrawing from Gaza, mandating the destruction of flourishing Jewish communities only to behold, within days, the transformation of the settlements’ ruins into launching pads for Kassam missiles aimed directly at southern Israeli population centers.
The foolhardy tide of concessions has not yet abated. As Israel reels under attacks on two fronts, the present prime minister, Ehud Olmert, continues to hew to his unfocused policy of unilateral withdrawal, by calling for even further territorial concessions, proposing to abandon dozens of West Bank communities in an attempt to create permanent borders for the State of Israel. That those borders would prove indefensible does not seem to trouble him. But the war in which Israel is now engaged is simple proof that walls, fences, unilateral disengagements or even bilateral agreements are no protection against sophisticated weaponry in the hands of terrorists who have little respect for, or interest in, the maintenance of the status quo.
With the incontrovertible confirmation of the folly of such an approach, a pitiless reality must now surely be settling in – withdrawal and territorial concession will never be interpreted in the Arab world as anything but weakness, retreat and surrender. It is a certain invitation to war and a guarantee of unending violence and strife.
The era of smiles and concessions must be brought to an end. The answer to terrorist kidnappings and rocket launchings can only be overwhelming, devastating military force – a message that must be understood not just in the terrorist strongholds, but in the faraway capitals where their sponsors hatch, plan and finance their proxies’ next battles. [emphasis added]