The Netanyahu government stands at a strategic crossroads in shaping this country’s security future. The wrong response to the current round of Palestinian violence and terrorism will not only inflame the situation, but will weaken Israel for the long term.
Israel should avoid making the following conceptual and tactical mistakes: Don’t buy into the nonsense that the violence in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, Kiryat Gat, Petah Tikva, Tel Aviv and elsewhere is “uncoordinated” and “spontaneous,” or conducted by “lone wolves” and “volunteer martyrs” without direction.
The youth conducting most of the attacks know very well how to read signals from above. They have excellent ears. Which leads to my next point.
Don’t ignore the incitement to violence coming from Palestinian political and religious leadership.
From Mahmoud Abbas’s repeated lies about Israeli threats to destroy the Jerusalem mosques, to his ugly talk about “filthy Israeli feet” invading the Temple Mount, to his exaltation of terrorists and his salary payments to families of terrorists, to the bloody glorification of knifing and bombing attacks that is running around the clock on Palestinian Authority television stations and Internet sites (as graphically documented this week by a shocking Channel 10 documentary) – it is clear that the Palestinian leadership is stoking, not stifling, the violence.
It may be true that Abbas is controlling and calibrating the violence rather than fomenting total chaos with mass casualties of the type that marked Arafat’s second intifada. (And for that, the IDF says it is “thankful.”) But Abbas has unleashed a wave of religious hatred that is not so easily reined in, either by Israeli security forces or his para-military militias. Thus the blood of each Israeli victim – Eitam and Naama Henkin, Nehemia Lavi, Aharon Banita and more – is on his head.
Don’t whitewash the responsibility of Abbas for the escalating international diplomatic assault on Israel, out of hollow hope of maintaining the fiction of a “peace partner.” We did that for far too long with Yasser Arafat, and paid enormous prices for doing so.
It’s nice that Abbas tells Haaretz (of course, gullible Haaretz!) that he “opposes all use of weapons and is prepared to reopen negotiations.”
But then he proceeds to demand that, first, all “heroic” Palestinian terrorists be released from Israeli jails; to deny the Jewish people’s historical and religious bond with the Land of Israel and Jews’ right to worship on the Temple Mount; to demonize Israel as an “apartheid state that is terrorizing Palestinians;” and to promise more legal assaults on Israel at the UN and ICC.
And knowing that Israeli counter-terrorism measures get Israel into additional global hot water, he cynically exhorts Palestinians to “defend Jerusalem with their blood” thereby ensuring additional violence and deepening Israel’s isolation.
Don’t talk only about Israel’s security needs in explaining Israel’s actions. Talk about Israel’s legal, historic and religious rights in this land. Don’t abandon the discourse of human, national and civil rights to the Palestinians. Change the way our diplomats present Israel’s case, immediately.
Don’t parrot the fallacious line that “the status quo is unsustainable.” Don’t push for a hasty and dangerous Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.
Despite the current violence, the status quo is very sustainable for the medium- to long-term. And given the regional meltdown, it is probably the least-worst alternative for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
Don’t abandon Jerusalem. Israelis must demonstrate presence in, and guardianship of, Jerusalem; and push the Netanyahu government to protect all people in Jerusalem.
Don’t cancel school class visits to Jerusalem – encourage them. Don’t ban Israeli VIP visits to the Temple Mount – increase them. Don’t close off the access route to the Western Wall through the Arab market in the Old City – ensure its safety.
Post 2,000 guards around the clock to secure every holy and historical site, if that is what’s necessary! Don’t forget that terrorism feeds off weakness and retreat; that the enemy smells Israeli lack of resolve; and that the Israeli government is affected by public opinion.
This, then, is the time for the Israeli public to show determination by voting with its feet and ascending to Jerusalem en masse.
Jews from abroad, and Jewish youth from abroad studying in Israel, should flock to Jerusalem, davka and defiantly now.
Don’t allow the terrorists to roll-back Israel.
Don’t excuse or accept terrorist attacks on Israelis driving to Tekoa in Judea or Itamar in Samaria, or on Jewish worshipers walking on a Muslim-dominated street in the Old City toward the Kotel. Don’t say that Palestinian violence in these places is “understandable.”
Don’t fool yourself: In Arab eyes, the beach-goers of Tel Aviv are targets just as legitimate as the settlers of Samaria, and they will be next in line for murder the minute Israel concedes Jerusalem or lets its guard down.
Don’t say, as Ariel Sharon lamentably did, that “restraint is power.” Restraint is sometimes smart and necessary. But make no mistake: In the Middle East it does not enhance your clout or perception of your power.
In the current circumstances, restraint will not bring about an end to Palestinian terrorism, nor even to the current flare-up.
Instead, Israel must act decisively to change the dynamic on the ground, and make clear that it won’t tolerate even the smallest security infractions.
Sale, possession or manufacture of firecrackers and kerosene bombs should be felonies. Stone throwers, including juveniles, are potential murderers and therefore should go to jail for lengthy periods of time.
Leaders of violent demonstrations should be swiftly expelled from the country.
Don’t say that the punishment of Palestinian families is illegal or ineffective. It is appropriate and has been shown to be very effective.
The families of Jerusalem Palestinian rioters should lose all government benefits, and the families of West Bank Palestinian rioters should be denied access to work, study and medical treatment permits in Israel. Families of terrorists should lose their homes through immediate demolitions.
Don’t wait too long before launching a full scale re-invasion of the West Bank to rigorously rout-out the terrorist cells of Hamas, Tanzim, Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigade, and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade. (The latter three are affiliated with Abbas’s Fatah movement).
Israel made that mistake in 2000-2002, suffering Arafat’s terrorism for an interminably long period before launching Operation Defensive Shield. Then prime minister Ariel Sharon justified this wait with the miserable contention that he was building international support. What a horrible error in judgment! Don’t attempt to buy diplomatic cover at the expense of Israeli lives. If and when a more substantial military incursion becomes necessary, Prime Minister Netanyahu shouldn’t delay out of concern for global opinion.
And the Guardian of Israel will deliver wisdom to Israel’s leaders, amen.