Why Israel is back on the right track, despite the prevailing mood

BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Knesset votes to back Gaza plan

We don’t negotiate with terrorists. We don’t negotiate with terrorists. We don’t negotiate with terrorists… In these days of internet MPEG downloads, there has to be a new metaphore for what used to be called a broken record.

Sharon’s opponents – previously his allies – have argued forcibly that to pull out of Gaza would be to give the terrorists what they want. It would prove that Israel was weak. That Israel could be worn down.

The mood of the moment is to be tough on the terrorists. War on terror, as George W has put it.

Haven’t we been paying attention for the last two hundred years? As Buffy the Vampire Slayer put it, ‘Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them in summer school.’

We all recognise that no-one yet has the right answer to terrorism. But we should at least have learned what some of the wrong answers are. In any community that feels itself oppressed, there are a range of opinions. Some people want to make the best of the world they are in. Some want to work to improve the lot of all the oppressed. Some will want to protest peacefully. Some will resort to direct action. Some may resort to terror.

‘Getting tough on terror’ sounds fine in principle, but it usually results in getting tough on the whole population. ‘Surgical’ strikes kill more bystanders than they do terrorists. War on terror solidifies opinion. It pushes the whole population towards resistance, direct action, terror.

‘Getting tough on terrorr’ sounds fine in principle. But it is the wrong answer. And, knowing this, it is time that we realise that we need to peal off moderate elements, encourage them, negotiate with them.

This is a hard thing to do if you have taught your population to believe that they are all terrorists.

Sharon has taken a brave step. His allies – formerly his enemies – have done well to put the past behind to support him.

We can all learn from his example.

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