Targeted Killing: Israeli Statistics: Does the tactic work?
November 16, 2012 by Bruce Wallace, 121Contact
A prominent voice in American Jewish youth recently said to us, "Israel is not fighting the Palestinians though...It's Hamas. You can not make peace with terrorists. It doesn't work like that. I feel terrible for the Palestinians in Gaza. There's no reason anyone should have to live like this but you also can't let an entire nation get bombarded day in and day out and not take action."
The sentiment is easy to understand. And Israel is taking action. By adopting the ever-more popular 'tageted killing' tactic Israel is making the strong statement that it will strike back, and hard, against terrorists and their supporters.
Israel can claim the success of this tactic by listing many prominent people killed, including the 2002 assassination of Salah Shehada, and the 2004 assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas and the most recent killing of Ahmed al-Jabari, the Hamas military commander. During the Al-Aqsa Intifada Irael carried out over 250 targeted killings. It certainly didn't end terrorism.
While we acknowldege the short-term value in removing specific actors from the scene, we question the long-term value of the tactic. What are the facts? Is targeted killing an effective tool? Does it reduce the incidence of terror attacks? This last question being the major metric we use to measure effectiveness.
In the year following Yassin's death the number of terrorist attacks rose. After his successor, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi was killedt errorist attacks quadrupled. And let's not forget that in 2006, after these assassinations, Hamas won the PA elections, and even when it was ousted it held its position in Gaza. Its popularity was not diminished by targeted killing; it was enhanced.
Juan Cole has pointed to the ability of Hamas to lie low when being attacked and the reappear when things quiet down.
Targeted killing does:
- immediately reduce the number of attacks
- but they rebound above and beyond previous numbers
- reduce the severity (Israelis killed) of each attack, which rebounds again.
- eliminate top leaders
- but they are quickly replaced
- eliminate small numbers of terrorists
- but they are quickly replaced by even greater numbers
- force insurgent leaders into hiding, making them harder to find and arrest/kill
- act as an effective recruitment tool
- reduce IDF casualties because it happens at long range
- increase sympathy and support for Hamas in a large part of the Arab world
It's a mixed bag, for sure, but the weight seems to be on the side of not using this tactic. It does more harm than good. Then what is the most effective response to Hamas?
It would take enormous cooperation among nations to effect a change in the Israeli/Palestinian situation. An agreement on borders for the two state solution, a stupendous injection of aid so that
the Palestinians gain a foothold in the economic world, a buildup of infrastructure, a buildup of health facilities and health care, and, a focused effort to build schools and increase the education effort.
Oh, you think that's expensive? You think that's hard? You think?
Yes, but much cheaper in lives and money than the self-defeating policies under way now.