To the U.S. Senate:
An Appeal on Israel's Behalf
by Benjamin Netanyahu
I have come here to voice what I believe is an urgently needed reminder: that the war on terror can be won with clarity and courage, or lost with confusion and vacillation.
Seven months ago, on a clear day in the capital of freedom, I was given the opportunity to address you, the guardians of liberty. I will never forget that day - a day when words that will echo for ages pierced the conscience of the free world. Words that lifted the spirits of an American nation that had been savagely attacked by evil. Words that looked that evil straight in the eye and boldly declared that it would be utterly destroyed. Most important, words that charted a bold course for victory. Those words were not mine. They were the words of the President of the United States.
In an historic speech to the world last September and with determined action in the crucial months that followed, President Bush and his administration outlined a vision that had the moral and strategic clarity necessary to win the war on terror. The moral clarity emanated from an ironclad definition of terror and an impregnable moral truth. Terrorism was understood to be the deliberate targeting of civilians in order to achieve political ends. And it was always unjustifiable. With a few powerful words, President Bush said all that needed to be said: "Terrorism is never justified."
The strategic clarity emanated from the recognition that international terrorism depends on the support of sovereign states, and that fighting it demands that these regimes be either deterred or dismantled. In one clear sentence, President Bush expressed this principle: "No distinction will be made between the terrorists and the regimes that harbor them." This moral and strategic clarity was applied with devastating effect to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that supported Al Qaeda terrorism. No false moral equivalence was drawn between the thousands of Afghan civilians who were the unintentional casualties of America's just war and the thousands of American civilians deliberately targeted on September 11. No strategic confusion led America to pursue Al Qaeda terrorists while leaving the Taliban regime in place.
Soon after the war began, the American victory over the forces of terror in Afghanistan brought to light the third principle in the war on terror - namely, that the best way to defeat terror is to defeat it. At first, this seemingly trite observation was not fully understood. Contrary to popular belief, the motivating force behind terror is neither desperation nor destitution. It is hope - the hope of terrorists systematically brainwashed by the ideologues who manipulate them that their savagery will break the will of their enemies and help them achieve their objectives - political, religious, or otherwise. Defeat this hope and you defeat terrorism. Convince terrorists, their sponsors, and potential new recruits that terrorism will be thoroughly uprooted and severely punished and you will stop it cold in its tracks.
By adhering to these three principles - moral clarity, strategic clarity and the imperative of victory - the forces of freedom, led by America, are well on their way to victory against terror from Afghanistan. But that is only the first step in dismantling the global terrorist network. The other terrorist regimes must now be rapidly dealt with in similar fashion. Yet today, just seven months into the war, it is far from certain that this will be done. Faced with the quintessential terrorist regime of our time - a regime that both harbors and perpetrates terror on an unimaginable scale - the free world is muddling its principles, losing its nerve, and thereby endangering the successful prosecution of this war. The question many in my country are now asking is this: Will America apply its principles consistently and win this war, or will it selectively abandon those principles and thereby ultimately lose the war?
My countrymen ask this question because they believe that terrorism is an indivisible evil and that the war against terror must be fought indivisibly. They believe that if moral clarity is obfuscated, or if you allow one part of the terror network to survive, much less be rewarded for its crimes, then the forces of terror will regroup and rise again. Until last week, I was certain that the United States would adhere to its principles and lead the free world to a decisive victory. Today, I too have my concerns. I am concerned that when it comes to terror directed against Israel, the moral and strategic clarity that is so crucial for victory is being twisted beyond recognition. I am concerned that the imperative of defeating terror everywhere is being ignored when the main engine of Palestinian terror is allowed to remain intact. I am concerned that the State of Israel, that has for decades bravely manned the front lines against terror, is being pressed to back down just when it is on the verge of uprooting Palestinian terror.
These concerns first surfaced with the appearance of a reprehensible moral symmetry that equates Israel, a democratic government that is defending itself against terror, with the Palestinian dictatorship that is perpetrating it. The deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians is shamefully equated with the unintentional loss of Palestinian life that is the tragic but unavoidable consequence of legitimate warfare. Worse, since Palestinian terrorists both deliberately target civilians and hide behind them, Israel is cast as the guilty party because more Palestinians have been killed in Arafat's terrorist war than Israelis.
No one, of course, would dare suggest that the United States was the guilty party in World War II because German casualties, which included millions of civilians, were twenty times higher then American casualties. So too, only a twisted and corrupt logic would paint America and Britain as the aggressors in the current war because Afghan casualties are reported to have well exceeded the death toll of September 11.
My concern deepened when, incredibly, Israel was asked to stop fighting terror and return to a negotiating table with a regime that is committed to the destruction of the Jewish State and openly embraces terror. Yasser Arafat brazenly pursues an ideology of policide - the destruction of a state - and meticulously promotes a cult of suicide. With total control of the media, the schools, and ghoulish kindergarten camps for children that glorifies suicide martyrdom, Arafat's dictatorship has indoctrinated a generation of Palestinians in a culture of death, producing waves of human bombs that massacre Jews in buses, discos, supermarkets, pizza shops, cafs - everywhere and anywhere.
Israel has not experienced a terrorist attack like the one the world witnessed on that horrific day in September. That unprecedented act of barbarism will never be forgotten. But in the last eighteen months, Israel's six million citizens have buried over four hundred victims of terror - a per capita toll equivalent to half a dozen September 11ths. This daily, hourly carnage is also unprecedented in terrorism's bloody history. Yet at the very moment when support for Israel's war against terror should be stronger than ever, my nation is being asked to stop fighting. Though we are assured by friends that we have the right to defend ourselves, we are effectively asked not to exercise that right.
But our friends should have no illusions. With or without international support, the government of Israel must fight not only to defend its people, restore a dangerously eroded deterrence and secure the Jewish State, but also to ensure that the free world wins the war against terror in this pivotal arena in the heart of the Middle East.
Israel must now do three things. First, it must dismantle Arafat's terrorist regime and expel Arafat from the region. As long as the engineer of Palestinian terror remains in the territories, terror will never stop and the promise of peace will never be realized. Second, Israel must clean out terrorists, weapons, and explosives from all Palestinian-controlled areas. No place, whether it is a refugee camp in Gaza or an office in Ramallah, can be allowed to remain a haven for terror. Third, Israel must establish physical barriers separating the main Palestinian population centers from Israeli towns and cities. This will prevent any residual terrorists from reaching Israel.
Done together, these three measures will dramatically reduce terrorism, bring security to the people of Israel and restore stability to the region. Last week, the government of Israel began to take the second of these vital steps. Rather than bomb Palestinian populated cities and towns from the air - an operation that would have claimed thousands of civilian casualties- the Israeli army is taking on greater risk by using ground forces that painstakingly make their way through the hornet's nests of Palestinian terror. But instead of praising Israel for seeking to minimize civilian casualties through careful and deliberate action, most of the world's governments shamelessly condemn it. For seven months, many of these governments have rightly supported the war against Afghan terror. Yet after only seven days, their patience for the war against Palestinian terror ran out.
The explanations that are offered for this double standard are not convincing. First it is said that war on Palestinian terror is different because a political process exists that can restore security and advance peace. This is not so. There can never be a political solution for terror. The grievance of terrorists can never be redressed through diplomacy. That will only encourage more terror. Yasser Arafat's terrorist regime must be toppled, not courted. The Oslo agreements are dead. Yasser Arafat killed them. He tore it to shreds and soaked it in Jewish blood by violating every one of its provisions, including the two core commitments he made at Oslo: to recognize the State of Israel and to permanently renounce terrorism. With such a regime and such failure of leadership, no political process is possible. In fact, a political process can only begin when this terrorist regime is dismantled.
Second, it is said that waging war on Palestinian terror today will destabilize the region and cripple the imminent war against Sadaam Hussein. This concern is also misplaced. Clearly, the urgent need to topple Sadaam is paramount.
The commitment of America and Britain to dismantle this terrorist dictatorship before it obtains nuclear weapons deserves the unconditional support of all sane governments. But contrary to conventional wisdom, what has destabilized the region is not Israeli action against Palestinian terror, but rather, the constant pressure exerted on Israel to show restraint. It is precisely the exceptional restraint shown by Israel for over a year and a half that has unwittingly emboldened its enemies and inadvertently increased the threat of a wider conflict. If Israeli restraint were to continue, the thousands that are now clamoring for war in Arab capitals will turn into millions, and an avoidable war will become inevitable. Half measures against terrorists will leave their grievances intact, fueled by the hope of future victory. Full measures will not redress those grievances, but it will convince them that pursuing terror is a prescription for certain defeat.
America must show that it will not heed the international call to stop Israel from exercising its right to defend itself. If America compromises its principles and joins in the chorus of those who demand that Israel disengage, the war on terror will be undermined. For if the world begins to believe that America may deviate from its principles, then terrorist regimes that might have otherwise been deterred will not be deterred. Those that might have crumbled under the weight of American resolve will not crumble. As a result, winning the war will prove far more difficult, perhaps impossible.
But my friends, I must also tell you that the charge that Israel, of all countries, is hindering the war against Sadaam is woefully unjust. For my country has done more than any other to make victory over Sadaam possible. Twenty-one years ago, Prime Minister Menachem Begin sent the Israeli air force on a predawn raid hundreds of miles away on one of the most dangerous military missions in our nation's history. When our pilots returned, we had successfully destroyed Sadaam's atomic bomb factory and crippled his capacity to build nuclear weapons. Israel was safer - and so was the world. But rather than thanking us for safeguarding freedom, the entire world condemned us.
Ten years later, when American troops expelled Iraqi forces in the Gulf War, then - Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney expressed a debt of gratitude to Israel for the bold and determined action a decade earlier that had made victory possible. Indeed, I am confident that in time those who would condemn Israel now will understand that rooting out Palestinian terror today will also make both Israel and the world safer tomorrow.
For if we do not immediately shut down the terror factories where Arafat is producing human bombs, it is only a matter of time before suicide bombers will terrorize your cities. If not destroyed, this madness will strike in your buses, in your supermarkets, in your pizza parlors, in your cafes. Eventually, these human bombs will supplement their murderous force with suitcases equipped with devices of mass death that could make the horrors of September 11 pale by comparison.
That is why there is no alternative to winning this war without delay. No part of the terrorist network can be left intact. For if not fully eradicated, like the most malignant cancer, it will regroup and attack again with even greater ferocity. Only by dismantling the entire network will we be assured of victory. But to assure that this evil does not reemerge a decade or two from now, we must not merely uproot terror, but also plant the seeds of freedom. Because only under tyranny can a diseased totalitarian mindset be widely cultivated. This totalitarian mindset, which is essential for terrorists to suspend the normal rules that govern a man's conscience and prevents him from committing these grisly acts, does not breed in a climate of democracy and freedom.
The open debate and plurality of ideas that buttress all genuine democracies and the respect for human rights and the sanctity of life that are the shared values of all free societies are a permanent antidote to the poison that the sponsors of terror seek to inject into the minds of their recruits. That is why it is also imperative that once the terrorist regimes in the Middle East are swept away, the free world, led by America, must begin to build democracy in their place. We simply can no longer afford to allow this region to remain cloistered by a fanatic militancy. We must let the winds of freedom and independence finally penetrate the one region in the world that clings to unreformed tyranny.
That in exercising our basic right to defend ourselves Israel is condemned by Arab dictatorships is predictable. That today a Europe which sixty years ago refused to lift a finger to save millions of Jews has turned its collective back on the Jewish State is downright shameful. But my friends, I must admit. I expected no better from them. Yet the America I know has always been different. History has entrusted this nation with carrying the torch of freedom. And time and time again, through both war and peace, America has carried that torch with courage and with honor, combining a might the world has never known with a sense of justice that no power in history has possessed.
I have come before you today to ask you to continue to courageously and honorably carry that torch by standing by an outpost of freedom that is resisting an unprecedented terrorist assault. I ask you to stand by Israel's side in its fight against Arafat's tyranny of terror, and thereby help defeat an evil that threatens all of mankind.
[From Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel, to the U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C., April 10, 2002]
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