Should Israel's goal be to defeat the Palestinian Arab terrorists who are waging war against it? Or should the Israelis be striving merely for a few days or weeks of quiet?

The answer would seem obvious, but at a recent meeting with a senior State Department official, I and other Jewish leaders were surprised and disappointed to discover that the State Department condemned Israel's July 31 preemptive strike against terrorists in Shechem, who were planning to carry out a massacre of Israeli Jews, as "excessive" and "provocative" because it "would not contribute to the goal of achieving quiet."

No country in the world, including the United States, would sit idly by and allow the massacre of its citizens. What would the U.S. do if Mexicans or Canadians were murdering U.S. citizens every day in Houston or Buffalo? Indeed, the U.S. has never been passive in the face of attacks. For example, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the goal of America's response was not to achieve temporary 'quiet', but to make sure that the aggressor would feel consequences so severe that the aggression would halt. And, of course, the U.S. has used much greater force than Israel in situations where American citizens were not in direct danger, such as in Panama, Grenada and the Persian Gulf.

Israel's goal in fighting a war is not "quiet," but protecting Israeli lives and the Israeli homeland. Therefore, Israel has every moral and legal right to use whatever force is necessary to achieve that end. As former Prime Minister Menachem Begin once said, "The man has not been born who ever obtained from me consent to let Jews be killed by a blood-thirsty enemy." A few days of "quiet" might provide an impressive sound-bite for publicity-hungry politicians, but it would not do Israel any real good. It would just mean a very slight delay until the terrorism resumes.

Secretary of State Powell himself has supported strong military action to defend U.S. citizens and interests when they were thought to be threatened. Powell's statements include:

"The 'biggest s.o.b. on the block' rule. America should enter fights with every bit of force available or not at all." (Time, April 19, 2001)

"Go in full force from the beginning rather than escalate yourself into a quagmire. Or don't go in at all." (Slate Magazine, March 27, 1999)

"Overwhelming U.S. force assures success at minimum risk to Americans in uniform." (Boston Globe, January 19, 2001)

The State Department's passionate rhetoric about the two Arab youths who were inadvertently killed during Israel's July 31 counter-terrorist action is especially ironic considering the harm done to innocent civilians in operations directed by then-General Powell himself. For example, he oversaw the December 1989 invasion of Panama, in which 25,000 troops were sent to capture a minor dictator suspected of drug trafficking. The action cost the lives of 23 American soldiers, as well as 315 Panamanian soldiers and hundreds of Panamanian civilians. In addition, thousands of civilians were injured and 10,000 were made refugees. In his autobiography, Powell said the operation conformed to his doctrine of "Use all the force necessary, and do not apologize for going-in big if that's what it takes."

Israel has not used "full force" or "overwhelming force" -- to quote Powell's description of his recommended methods -- but soon it will have no choice but to do so. As of this writing, 138 Israelis have been murdered since September 2000 and the daily mortar attacks, shootings, and bombings have reached Israel's major cities. Israel will have to take serious military action to defeat the terrorists.

If the Bush administration is serious about its interest in peace in the Middle East, there are specific steps it can take to stop the terror before it leads to an all-out war:

1. Stop condemning Israel's counter-terror actions. The condemnations lend encouragement to the terrorists.

2. Halt America's $100-million in annual aid to the Palestinian Arabs. Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Arabs must be made to see that there will be real consequences for his war against America's ally, Israel.

3. Put the Palestinian Authority on the official U.S. list of sponsors of terrorism. Pretending that the PA is not a terrorist entity only encourages it to believe that the United States does not seriously oppose its violence.

4. Take concrete steps to bring Palestinian Arab killers of Americans to justice ? including offering rewards for information leading to their capture and issuing indictments, so that the suspects can be brought to trial in the U.S. The terrorists need to know that the U.S. will hunt them down and find them.

5. Continue the administration's policy of refusing to invite Arafat to the White House so long as violence continues. This is the one positive action the administration has taken regarding Arafat and it must be maintained. Inviting Arafat now would be rewarding violence.

There can be no peace until Israel has defeated Arafat and his terrorists. The United States should help Israel do so.


Morton Klein is the National President of the Zionist Organization of America