The international furor over Israel?s policy of what it calls ?interception of terrorists? sharply illustrates the dilemma in which Israel finds itself. Without doubt, Israel?s targeting of suspected terrorists has thwarted many terrorist acts. However, because they were not convicted in a court of law, and thus there is no legal certainty that they were connected to a crime, most of the world has called this a policy of assassination ? a form of punishment and deterrent without trial.
Of course, the law recognizes the legitimate right to apprehend those en route to commit a crime. But the argument of those who label these actions ?assassination? is that the ?taking out? of terrorists is not limited to instances of such interdiction. They also extend, they say, to those suspected of having already committed terrorist acts and who are likely to do so in the future.
In fact, there have been a significant number of instances in which the terrorists have been reached while on their mission. But it must also be assumed that on occasion, they were not.
Should Israel be precluded from pursuing the interception policy because it can never be foolproof?
We think not.
The current wave of Palestinian terror plainly presents a unique problem for a country built on the rule of law. Arafat and his henchmen probably thought they had it figured out. They could send their guerrillas out to engage in surreptitious terror and then, for the most part, have them fade into the background out of the reach of Israeli authorities, positioned to strike again.
Nor is this stratagem lost on Israel?s critics over the issue, including the United States. Some are simply unable to publicly accept what has traditionally been deemed extra-judicial. Yet, we would urge that just as most of the world has accorded a political dimension to Palestinian acts that in other contexts would be considered criminals, so too should Israel?s policy of interception at least be viewed in a similar light. There is surely no analogy to be drawn between Israel?s acts of self-defense and the Palestinian campaign of murdering innocent civilians. But it is important to keep in mind that political problems are not always viewed through the prism of courtroom standards.