Michael Gerson

Peace negotiations generally have preconditions, including the security of both parties. If Israeli citizens are convinced that the "peace process" really means impunity for terrorists who attack them, Israel will want no part of that process. If Hamas leaders remain confident in their impunity -- convinced that their most effective strategy is to kill Israeli citizens while hiding behind their own -- they will not be in the proper mood for meaningful negotiations either. Recent military operations have addressed some of Israel's justified fears and, perhaps, tamed some of Hamas' murderous arrogance.

According to Daniel Schueftan, a senior research fellow at the University of Haifa, Israel faces a "strategic challenge -- a civilian population that lives a few miles from terrorists -- for which we don't have a strategic solution. But we have found some operational answers. In Defensive Shield (the building of Israel's security wall), we brought down suicide bombings by 95 percent, exclusively with coercive force, not politics."

"It is a fairy tale," he says, "to say there are no answers through coercive force. The only things in life that have solutions are crossword puzzles. We have not solutions, but answers -- operational answers that reduce terror to a tolerable level. It is what we do with crime. It is what we do with terrorism."

Would peace negotiations be even a remote possibility if Israel were still besieged by suicide bombers, leaving bloodstains and bitterness at Israeli cafes? So the ugly but effective security wall actually served a purpose in peace negotiations. The same can be said of the establishment of deterrence through the Gaza offensive.

It is amazing that this argument remains an argument, especially after America's experience with the surge in Iraq. For years, military and diplomatic experts have argued that the ultimate solution is Iraqi political reconciliation rather than military force. Which was true, eventually. But the achievement of security through force, it turns out, was a precondition for the process of reconciliation to move forward. The Fallacy of the Eventual Answer actually delayed the peace.

We can try to imagine a world of diplomats without soldiers, but it would be no more peaceful than a society of therapists without policemen. Coercion is not the ultimate source of peace -- but peace is sometimes unachievable without it.


Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
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