The article examines Israel’s successes and failures during the Second Intifada. It argues that Israel’s advances came from an effective counterterrorism campaign involving a mix of military operations, defensive measures, and in particular improved intelligence gathering. Domestic resilience also proved strong in the face of a brutal terrorism campaign. Yet long-term victory remains elusive for Israel. Deterrence, always difficult against terrorist groups, is growing harder for Israel. Hamas’s control of Gaza, and the mistrust and hatred sown during the Second Intifada, have hindered a political deal between Israel and moderate Palestinians. Much of what went into successful counterterrorism, notably the security barrier and the aggressive campaign of raids and arrests, does not jibe with most visions of what peace would look like and makes a deal harder to achieve. To make a peace deal work, Israeli counterterrorism must change, with measures including relocating parts of the security barrier, bolstering moderate Palestinian politicians, and working with, as opposed to undermining, Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.
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The objective of this kind of [safe zones] project may be described as fundamentally humanitarian, but the reality is that any number of parties, starting with the Assad regime and the Islamic State, are going to see it as a threat, and that’s going to make it a target instead of a safe place.