I've long suspected that it is the Israeli grand strategy to defeat the Palestinians by forcing them to laugh themselves to death.
Prof. Steven PlautSteven Plaut teaches at the University of Haifa and is author of "The Scout" (available from Gefen Publishing House). More of his writings can be seen on the New Plaut Blog, as well as in numerous electronic and print newspapers.
That seems to be the only possible way to understand the latest resuscitation of the RRH Doctrine, which has dominated Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and the Arab states since the early 1990s.
The RRH Doctrine was invented in the early days of Oslo and stands for Really, Really Hard. Israeli governments would make deals to hand over most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the PLO, while reassuring Israelis that there was no reason for worry - if the Palestinians misbehaved, Israel would hit back at them Really, Really Hard.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf was a far more credible strategist.
Even if, perchance, anyone ever took the RRH threats seriously, by the mid-1990s the RRH was little more than an overly-long-running joke. Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres had threatened it during the early days of Oslo. Later, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, after each and every act of terrorism, would loudly invoke RRH, but then did little, if anything, to retaliate. After Netanyahu came Ehud Barak, who once again threatened RRH regularly. But his only implementation of it consisted of chopper attacks on empty Palestinian buildings - and only after the PLO was given advance notification, so that all humans and terrorists could be evacuated.
RRH was also used by Barak (and other prime ministers) to threaten Hizbullah in Lebanon and their Syrian puppet masters. After each Hizbullah attack on Israeli towns and on Israeli forces inside southern Lebanon, Israel threatened the most serious RRH. But, in the end, the only manifestation of RRH implemented by Barak consisted of a panicked unilateral capitulation and withdrawal from southern Lebanon, which left Hizbullah sitting smack dab on Israel's border, with thousands of its rockets aimed at northern Israel, with Haifa in range.
When Ariel Sharon first revealed his Gaza-Samaria Disengagement Plan, after winning the last Israeli election, it too was accompanied by empty threats of RRH. Israel could not get the PLO to make any concessions in exchange for surrender of the Gaza Strip and the eviction of the Jewish population there; Sharon nevertheless decided to implement the Mitzna Plan, against which he had campaigned, and withdraw without any quid pro quo. He would just go ahead with unilateral capitulation, whether the PLO liked it or not. And if the PLO failed to contain Hamas and prevent terror attacks against Israel after the withdrawal, why, then, Sharon's government would order the Israeli Defense Forces to respond with serious RRH.
Hours after the Gaza capitulation was completed, and all Israeli troops and settlers had been removed, the rocket and mortar attacks on the Negev began. The PLO was calling Sharon's bluff.
Almost as old as the RRH Doctrine is the Who-Could-Have-Ever-Predicted-That Syndrome. Since Oslo, every new Israeli concession resulted in escalated Palestinian violence. And the Israeli chattering classes would sigh and ask rhetorically, "Who could have possibly foreseen this?" Likewise, after each violation of the Oslo Accords by the PLO, the media and the left-wing politicians would pout, "Who could have predicted that?"
After years of daily proof that the entire Oslo concept was unworkable, its advocates were still responding to each new failure as if it was total serendipity.
The Israeli media could not foresee any failures of the Oslo capitulations and appeasements because the media are by and large the occupied territories of Israel's radical Left. The overseas media were even less capable of foreseeing the consequences of Oslo because they were far more interested in bashing Israel than understanding anything about the Middle East conflict.
The answer to the rhetorical question of "Who could have foreseen the failures of Oslo?" is, "Anyone not blinded by ideology." A few weeks after the handshake on the White House lawn in 1993, I published my first article predicting the complete failure of the Rabin-Peres Oslo initiative; in fact, it was the first such article published in North America. I predicted that the PLO would simply use any territory turned over to it by Israel to build terror infrastructure and launch attacks on Israel. I wrote of future rocket attacks and sniper fire against Israeli towns from the PLO-controlled areas years before they actually began in earnest. And I was hardly alone in 20/20 foresight.
It was not particularly difficult in 1993 to see why Oslo would fail. It is even easier now, with 12 years of disastrous "peace process" experience, to understand why Sharon's Gaza disengagement will result in an enormous escalation of violence, not in any relaxation of tensions.
Let's give the Arabs some credit. Israel has been making so many threats of RRH ever since the Oslo "peace process" began that a Palestinian leader would have to be learning-disabled to take any of them seriously. If I consider them a joke, why should Abu Mazen believe them?
The Oslo Accords produced the greatest escalation in Palestinian terrorism and atrocities in modern Israeli history. At their most severe, Israeli retaliations took the form of some targeted assassinations of Hamas and PLO terror leaders. More often than not, Israeli retaliations consisted of meaningless gestures like bombing the aforementioned empty buildings or making sonic booms over terrorist concentrations, and of course the ever louder empty threats of RRH. On Israel's northern border, virtually no retaliations against Hizbullah took place, even after Hizbullah kidnapped and murdered three Israeli army officers and fired rockets into Israel.
All of this brings us to the latest rocket attacks by the PLO on Sderot a few days ago. The main effect of the Gaza capitulation is that the PLO can now import unlimited supplies of weaponry from Egypt, with no ability of Israel to interfere. Israeli troops are no longer on the ground inside the Gaza Strip.
We already see the results and we can clearly foresee the "unexpected" consequences that will be taking place in the near future. The PLO and its affiliates now have all the freedom they need to upgrade their rockets. The new, improved Kassam rockets will be able to hit Ashkelon from Gaza. Sharon's Gaza capitulation will turn the Negev town of Sderot into Israel's Stalingrad. The PLO has already converted an abandoned synagogue building in Gush Katif into a weapons facility.
When the latest rockets hit Sderot after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon and his people responded mainly with a new round of RRH. The laughter from Ramallah was deafening. Let's note that back before 1993, when Israel held Gaza tightly with on-the-ground military rule, there were no Kassam rockets in Gaza. The Palestinian savages threw stones at Jews because real weapons were hard to procure.
The PLO knows what we all know; namely, that Sharon is afraid to take the only action that, in the end, can end the shooting of Kassam rockets into Jewish homes . R&D, or Re-Occupation and DeNazification. Let's hope his successor will be less pusillanimous.