Argument: Targeted assassinations have a deterrent effect on would-be terrorists

Issue Report: Assassination of a Dictator


Steven R. David. “Fatal Choices: Israel’s Policy of Targeted Killing”. John Hopkins University. September 2002. – “Targeted killing also acts as a deterrent. In one sense, it appears virtually impossible to deter people willing and even eager to lose their life. But behind every suicide bomber are others who might not be as ready for martyrdom. The large number of Palestinian commanders who surrendered meekly to Israeli forces during the large-scale military incursions in the spring of 2002 lends support to the notion that many senior officials do not wish to die for their cause. It is also reasonable to assume that there are skilled, capable Palestinians who do not engage in terrorist operations for fear of Israeli reprisals. Most important, there is strong evidence that the policy of targeted killing hurts Palestinian organizations to the extent to which they are willing to alter their behavior. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with three Palestinian leaders (though not Yasir Arafat) on January 30, 2002. When Sharon asked the Palestinians what they wanted from him, first on their list was an end to targeted killings.20 Islamic Jihad and Hamas agreed to refrain from launching attacks in pre-1967 Israel in December 2001 so long as Israel refrained from killing its leaders. Although the cease-fire eventually broke down, their willingness to abide by the cease-fire, even temporarily, indicates the deterrent power of targeted killing.”