March 23, 2004
On the subject of Hamas
Hamas has vowed to retaliate for the killing of Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli air strike Monday as he left a mosque in his wheelchair. [CNN]On the other hand...
In the early months of the intifada, this macho pretense was sustained by the Israeli government's tacit decision not to target terrorist ringleaders, for fear such attacks would inspire massive retaliation. Yassin and his closest associates considered themselves immune from Israeli reprisals and operated in the open. What followed was the bloodiest terrorist onslaught in Israeli history, climaxing in a massacre at Netanya in March 2002. After that, Israel invaded the West Bank and began to target terrorist leaders more aggressively.
The results, in terms of lives saved, were dramatic. In 2003, the number of Israeli terrorist fatalities declined by more than 50% from the previous year, to 213 from 451. The overall number of attacks also declined, to 3,823 in 2003 from 5,301 in 2002, a drop of 30%. In the spring of 2003, Israel stepped up its campaign of targeted assassinations, including a failed attempt on Yassin's deputy, Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Wise heads said Israel had done nothing except incite the Palestinians to greater violence. Instead, Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups agreed unilaterally to a cease-fire.[Bret Stephens, editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post, writing in the WSJ]
I don't think anybody knows for sure what it ultimately true here, and Mr. Stephens is clearly on one side rather than the other, but the above still seems to be worth thinking about.