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Outside the Box

Terrorism has become a military tool of states, not just sub-national organizations.
Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Dan Sion (R), Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Amatzya “Patzi” Hen (C) and the author taking a petition to the High Court in Jerusalem on behalf of bereaved families against the Gilad Shalit deal freeing 1,027 Palestinian.

Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Dan Sion (R), Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Amatzya “Patzi” Hen (C) and the author taking a petition to the High Court in Jerusalem on behalf of bereaved families against the Gilad Shalit deal freeing 1,027 Palestinian.
Photo Credit: Uri Lenz / Flash90

Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Amatzya “Patzi” Hen and former ISA chief Meir Dagan once stood together at the forefront of the war on terror. Today they stand worlds apart on the question of the two-state paradigm.  The difference between them is the difference between a man who, over the course of many years inside the system, became the captive of an illusion and a man who permits himself to think independently in terms of ideals and long-term strategy.

Hen is a fierce fighter, a military man who commanded heroic battles over the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur War.  His makeshift regiment consisted of Shaked commandos who had run away from courses or interim unit assignments to the man who had commanded them during their time in Shaked.  One of them was Dagan.  Also there were Rimon commando Col. Shmulik Paz and former Knesset Member Capt. Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz, who was seriously wounded there.

Nowadays Patzi lectures at IDF command colleges, where he analyzes past battles and the mistakes that were made during them.  Patzi specializes in investigative inquiries; it has long been his contention that the IDF does not know how to perform these—unlike the Arab armies.  And he is not alone: Uri Milstein has by now created a whole genre around this approach.

Patzi applies his argument fully to Israel’s experience with terrorism and the Oslo Accords governing military relations with the PLO and the PA.  Even though the accords came crashing down with the terrorist attacks of 1996 and collapsed even further in the 2000 terror war, Israel has failed to learn that agreements are no substitute for control in the field.

As the former commander of the Shaked unit in Gaza, which played a central role in crushing the terrorism emanating from there in the seventies, Patzi has plenty to say on the topic.  He opines that terrorism has become a military tool of states, not just sub-national organizations.  Iran is one of the practitioners, but it is not alone.  It is joined by the students of “Mother Russia,” which pioneered the technique before it spread to the rest of the world, perfecting the approach through the creation of colleges of terrorism and revolution.

Patzi is a staunch opponent of the “two states for two peoples” formula, and considers upgrading the autonomous PA to a state a dangerous idea.  Autonomy is dangerous enough.  The proof is that we’ve lost more people to terrorism since the creation of the PA than before then: 1,400 dead Israelis.

What would be if it gained sovereignty?

More of the same.  Terrorism has long been a substitute for conventional warfare, but the laws of war remain unchanged and unadapted to terrorism.  Enemy states know very well how to take advantage of the obsolete laws of war as a legally sheltered tool for striking at Israel.

Patzi also points out the under-appreciated ramifications of other developments: the Russian aliya, which  counterbalanced the demographic threat; the revolution that is storming through the Arab world, which on one hand requires us to be strong and continue to realize the Zionist dream, and on the other to refrain from political processes involving parties that may and may not be around a decade from now.

The way he sees it, it is not possible to fit a state in the narrow stretch of mountains that is Judea and Samaria.  “There isn’t space for two states west of the Jordan,” he says.  “The area is too small to contain both Israeli and Palestinian forces.”  This is a military assessment, not an ideological one.  What would keep Palestinian cells carrying officially issued weaponry from opening fire at Israeli forces, as already has happened at points along the seam, including Palestinians firing at Israelis while on joint patrol?  Any agreements on military cooperation between the two sides would collapse when subjected to pressure, just as happened in the 2000 terror war.

“Because there are no inquiries,” says Patzi, “they keep repeating the same mistakes.  They’re even liable to make matters even worse by creating a Palestinian state.”  The pursuit of terrorists across the border into a neighboring state would result in a Security Council session: this is what used to happen before the Six-Day War.  Forget about any extended operations in a Palestinian state.  Any action would take place under heavy time contraints, at high risk, and with a high probability of complications.

Meir Dagan commanded the Rimon commando unit and headed the ISA.  He also understands terrorism.  But he thinks differently.  “In the end there will be a  Palestinian state,” he said to me in a private conversation in which I had tried to interest him in activity against the creation of such a thing.

I asked Dagan, a former commander of mine, how we could deal with terrorism once a Palestinian state came into being.

“Today there are enough sophisticated ways, including from the air,” Dagan said dryly, having chased down a few terrorists in his life.

But that is a solution out of the ISA.  It works for taking out a few terrorists.  It is not adequate for bringing down a whole batallion of them.

So how is it that two commanders, two friends, take two such diametrically opposed positions?  Dagan doesn’t think a Palestinian state would be God’s gift to the world, but he spent many years inside the system.  He is a captive of standardized schemes for finding solutions within the box, and speaks the language of low-intensity conflict doctrine, with its temporary, tactical solutions.  For him, a Palestinian state is something unavoidable with which we will have to learn to live, come what may.

Patzi, meanwhile, has been outside the system for many years.  He sees matters in terms of military strategy: he thinks outside the box.  That is what makes a man with political and military vision.

Originally published in Makor Rishon.

About the Author: Lt.-Col. (ret.) Meir Indor is CEO of Almagor Terror Victims Association. In his extended career of public service, he has worked as a journalist, founded the Libi Fund, Sar-El, Habaita, among many other initiatives, and continues to lend his support to other pressing causes of the day.


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