Argument: Targeted assassinations disrupt negotiations/ceasefires with militants

Issue Report: Assassination of a Dictator


Steven R. David. “Fatal Choices: Israel’s Policy of Targeted Killing”. John Hopkins University. September 2002. – “Third, the January 2002 targeted killing of Tanzim leader, Raed al-Karmi ended a cease-fire declared by Yasir Arafat the previous month. During that tenuous ceasefire, the violence of the intifada had been reduced to its lowest point since its inception. Following the slaying of Karmi, however, the Palestinians unleashed an unprecedented wave of suicide bombers, killing large numbers of Israelis. Both Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and senior Israeli military officers agreed that Karmi’s killing transformed a situation of relative calm into one of murderous violence. Even more important, Karmi’s death reportedly caused the Al-Aksa Brigades—a secular group owing allegiance to Fatah—to engage in suicide bombings. Previously, only Islamic Jihad and Hamas employed this weapon. The result was record casualties among Israelis combined with the added complication of having to confront women suicide bombers (which Islamic Jihad and Hamas have not employed) as well as men.22 Finally, the Israeli killing of Hamas leader, Sheik Salah Shehada, in July 2002, derailed what many believed to be promising negotiations. Only days before Shehada’s death, Israel had been engaged in serious talks with Palestinian leaders. The Palestinians put forth a proposal that called for a cease-fire and Palestinian promises to provide for Israeli security in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from West Bank cities. The Palestinians also pledged, “From this moment forward, we will end attacks on innocent, noncombatant men, women and children.” It is impossible to know whether these talks would have amounted to anything because the Israeli killing of Shehada (and 14 innocent civilians) derailed the negotiations, after which renewed violence (including a suicide bombing attack on Hebrew University) quickly followed.

Targeted killing also hurts Israeli interests by removing current adversaries who may prove to be useful negotiating partners in the future. One of the vexing problems confronting Israeli decision makers is the absence of any credible alternatives to the failed leadership of Yasir Arafat. This problem exists mostly because of the corrupt and dysfunctional politics of the Palestinian Authority.”