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Posted: 8/6/2001 4:53:32 PM EDT
The Los Angeles Times August 6 2001 Israel Has the System Down on Security A big reason for the failure of Arafat's offensive was Israel's readiness. By EDWARD N. LUTTWAK http://latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-000063989aug06.story?coll=la%2 While diplomats and Middle East experts wonder how peace negotiations can ever resume after the colossal failure of the Oslo process, and while Palestinian sufferings continue, security experts everywhere are fascinated by the extraordinary Israeli success in minimizing their casualties. The constant, dramatic coverage of shootings and bombings is contradicted by statistics: In the 10 months since the outbreak of violence, a total of 136 Israeli civilians and soldiers have been killed--many fewer than the number who died in road accidents over the same period, and an amazingly small number considering the sheer magnitude of the violence. Physical damage to Israeli public infrastructures and private property has been insignificant and, more importantly, not one of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank or Gaza has been evacuated. Israel's ability to keep damage to a minimum explains why world attention is no longer focused on the heroics of the Israeli military, which were so apparent in the 1970s and 1980s, but instead on Israel's security system, which immediately went into action once Yasser Arafat's men started shooting. In a world where even impeccably democratic governments are confronted by terrorist attacks, there is more than idle curiosity in the secrets of Israeli success. Information publicly available provides tantalizing glimpses. For example, the Web site of RAFAEL, the high-technology leader in Israel's defense industry, shows new items for "low-intensity warfare," including high-altitude surveillance balloons equipped with telescopes. These may explain how terrorist chiefs sitting in their offices or riding in cars in the midst of other traffic can be killed remotely by missiles--and with no errors so far. These kinds of electronic detectors may even explain how so many explosive devices have been found before they could explode. A specialized undercover Israeli commando unit that kills individual terrorists as they move about in the apparent security of Palestinian towns does not find them just by accidentally spotting them in the crowd. Every day, press photographs clearly show Israeli soldiers wearing target-distorting bags over their helmets, while all soldiers and policemen wear their Israeli-made bulletproof vests that in spite of the extreme heat of the Middle East summer do not seem to contribute to heat prostration. These may seem like technical, micro-details but they are not unimportant in the overall politics of the conflict, because when Arafat's riflemen started shooting 10 months ago, one of his goals was to trigger an antiwar movement within Israeli society by killing as many soldiers as possible. They are almost all young conscripts, with duly anxious parents. While well-equipped snipers also helped to keep the Israeli death toll low--in 4,016 shooting incidents against outposts, just 12 Israeli soldiers lost their lives--the very good protective equipment of the troops, including vehicles with advanced light armor and a unique set of mobile fortifications, also played a part.
Link Posted: 8/6/2001 4:55:28 PM EDT
But a much bigger reason for the failure of Arafat's offensive was that the Israelis were fully ready for it. In spite of the abrupt transition from the high hopes of peace to the outbreak of armed violence, there was no surprise, no shock, no confusion. On the face of it, Israeli intelligence can claim the credit for anticipating Arafat's moves. But there was much more to it than that: When the shooting started, hundreds of separate army and police units throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were already on high alert, all personnel were already wearing their helmets and armor at all times, all radio and data networks were already up and running, all foot and vehicle patrols were being carried out in a full combat mode. This could not have been achieved just by transmitting a last-minute warning; only a policy decision at the highest level could have set the machinery in motion. That rules out the possibility that the orders ultimately came from Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the country's top military officer. For months now, Arafat has been attacking Mofaz in a crude and personal way as he never attacked any Israeli general before, but when he blames Mofaz for what Israeli forces have been doing to his men, he is wrong twice over. Mofaz certainly seems competent, but policies are made at levels above him by the civilian leadership. Mofaz's top priority has been to keep the armed forces focused on its real mission: To prepare for an all-out war in the event that regional stability should break down, not to fight Arafat's ragtag forces, kids throwing stones or even terrorists. While Arafat imagines Mofaz plotting devilish new tricks against his men, Mofaz must actually spend his time juggling personnel and budgets to ensure that the military continues to train intensively for large-scale operations against regular armies and to develop antimissile systems against both Hezbollah bombardment rockets and the ballistic missiles of Iran and Syria. Even now, in spite of all the action in the West Bank and Gaza, the Israelis are using only a fraction of their personnel and money to contain the intifada, and it is Mofaz's job to keep it that way. But if Mofaz could not issue the crucial orders that prevented a debacle, who did? His superior of course--Ehud Barak, the defense minister at the time, who also happened to be the prime minister. This is the same Barak who gambled his political career on an all-out attempt to reach a comprehensive agreement with Arafat and who was still trying to negotiate a peace treaty even after the Camp David failure and, indeed, even after Arafat's riflemen had started shooting. It is not duplicity that explains the paradox but rather Israel's existential predicament, which forces mere politicians to act like statesmen. Until the Camp David summit, Barak was evidently convinced that Arafat wanted peace. Gen. Amos Gilad, head of military intelligence analysis, was just as sure that his data proved Barak wrong, forecasting both Arafat's refusal at Camp David and his resort to violence in the aftermath
Link Posted: 8/6/2001 4:56:35 PM EDT
Prime Minister Barak was extremely irritated with Gilad, but Defense Minister Barak had no data to contradict him, therefore he neither removed Gilad from his position nor did he suppress Gilad's gloomy estimates. They circulated in the usual way to all military, police and security headquarters, and through them down to every operational unit, whose commanders duly reacted with the precautions that prevented a bloody debacle last October. Israel's security system, while technically admirable is not, however, bringing peace any closer. On the contrary, by doing such a good job of limiting the damage, it is making indefinite conflict seem more tolerable, and any fundamental decisions seem less necessary. Edward N. Luttwak is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington
Link Posted: 8/6/2001 8:06:37 PM EDT
In reading this article, it occurred to me that maybe Sharon's appearance on the "Temple Mount" 10 months ago was a very cunning and calculated attempt at some finality between the Jews and Palestinians, Total Peace or Total War. Maybe Barak offered so much in the peace treaty with Arafat (to the chagrin of many Israelis) knowing full well that Arafat [u]wouldn't[/u] take the bait thereby giving the two sides an opportunity to "air their difference"--pushing for a resolution either way (peace or war).
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