Example of Israeli 'Force' Over Palestinians: Checkpoints To Combat Terrorism?

Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner offered a slanted summary of the recent violent history of the Middle East Tuesday under the headline: "The Painful Truth in Mideast Talks: Force Has Trumped Diplomacy."

One strange example of what Bronner considers "force": "numerous checkpoints" set up by Israel to keep Palestinian terrorists from killing Israeli citizens.

As the Obama administration tries to broker a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is a dark truth lurking: force has produced clearer results in this dispute than talk.


The payoff from the use of force in the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is evident. It was only after the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s that Israel recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization and started to consider a two-state solution, and after the second - and very bloody - uprising that it left Gaza in 2005.

Meanwhile for many Israelis, the past decade looks like a model of the primacy of military action over diplomacy.

Through relentless commando operations and numerous checkpoints, the Israeli Army ended suicide bombings and other terrorist acts from the West Bank; since its 2006 war with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, widely dismissed as a failure at the time, the group has not fired one rocket at Israel; and Israel's operation against Gaza last December has greatly curtailed years of Hamas rocket fire, returning a semblance of normality to the Israeli south.

Bronner quoted a liberal Israeli columnist to suggest Israel's very "legitimacy" was under threat for its "tactics" in Gaza and Lebanon:

And for Israel, while the country is safer today, quieter and more prosperous than ever, it is facing a severe diplomatic crisis. As the storm over the United Nations report on Israel's attack on Gaza shows, not only are the country's tactics under assault but so is its very legitimacy as calls for boycott and criminal prosecution grow. Its important relationship with Turkey, a moderate Muslim country, is under threat.

Ari Shavit, a columnist for the liberal newspaper Haaretz, wrote on Thursday that both Britain in 1917 and the United Nations in 1947 recognized the Jewish people's right to establish a Jewish state. Yet "as Israel gets stronger, its legitimacy is melting away," he wrote. "A national movement that began as 'legitimacy without an entity' is becoming 'an entity without legitimacy' before our very eyes."

Many Israelis respond that their self-preservation comes ahead of their reputation, that the swiftness and harshness with which their actions are condemned show that the world judges them by a double standard. Others say the isolation looks worse abroad than here.

Bronner's previous reporting has suggested that defensive moves by Israel, like destroying a tunnel built by Hamas, was somehow inciting violence instead of trying to reduce it.

On Tuesday he used a euphemism to describe the anti-Israel terrorist group Hamas as engaging in "armed struggle."

But many of its leaders add something else - over the long term, only the Israeli military's presence on its borders can ensure the country's survival. Diplomacy, they say, can go only so far, and the Palestinian state will have to submit to severe restrictions on its military activities and pacts with foreign states.

For their part, the Palestinians reject such restrictions but have similar sentiments about the importance of force. Armed struggle remains central to Hamas doctrine; the rival Fatah movement says it remains an important option.