The Bloody and Futile Life of a Palestinian Terrorist Mastermind

In July, Ahmad Jibril, the founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLFP–GC)—an offshoot of the once-Marxist PFLP—died in Syria of natural causes. Ksenia Svetlova, who interviewed him in 2006, reflects on his career:

Years before Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were established, Jibril was the innovator and trendsetter among other terrorist organizations. His PFLP–GC was the first to use “living bombs” and to find a justification for suicide bombings in Muslim jurisprudence. In 1982 his organization demanded the release of 1,182 Palestinian and international prisoners in exchange for captured Israelis, setting a precedent that came to haunt Israel more than once since then. [He] ended up with the shadowy remnants of his once-proud organization fighting with Bashar al-Assad’s army against other Palestinians in Yarmouk camp [in Damascus] and dying an old man.

During the 1970s, when Palestinian terrorist organizations were operating freely from southern Lebanon, Jibril’s organization—believing that the PLO leadership was “too soft”—carried out several massacres [in northern Israel], notably the Avivim school-bus massacre in 1970 and the Kiryat Shmona massacre in 1974. During that interview in Damascus in 2006, Jibril’s eyes practically lit when he spoke of the Kiryat Shmona “operation,” in which terrorists from southern Lebanon entered a residential building and murdered eighteen men, women, and children.

While [Jibril] was busy producing advanced terror techniques and sending the bill to the Syrian regime, Israel was busy generating real innovations, in medicine, science, and high-tech. His political and military career had reached a cul-de-sac as his violent operations . . . did not promote the Palestinian cause of liberation and the establishment of an independent state even by one inch. His violent activity did not weaken Israel, and today the Jewish state is much more powerful—and accepted by much of the Arab world—than it was a few decades ago.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian terror, PFLP, Syria

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy