The recent wave of Palestinian terrorism has left many of Israel’s decision-makers scratching their heads, wondering how one can possibly stop “lone wolf” attackers from causing havoc and mayhem on the streets.
The spate of stabbings over the past few weeks seems to defy traditional models of counter-terrorism, which have generally focused on organization and infrastructure, thereby leaving the government to grapple with how to raise the stakes to deter individual Palestinian attackers.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet have adopted a number of important steps, such as fast-tracking the destruction of terrorists’ homes and annulling their residency status when relevant, it is clear that more needs to be done to dissuade and prevent would-be assailants from carrying out their deadly intentions.
Surprisingly enough, the answer to this quandary might just be as simple as it is straightforward.
To put it bluntly, the message we need to start sending to the Palestinians is this: the more you try to kill us, the more we will build. For every act of Palestinian destruction, Israel should undertake an act of construction, and move forward with an expansion of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
This is not to imply a moral equivalence between the two. Just the opposite.
After all, the central aim of Palestinian terrorism is to kill Jews and to expunge the Jewish presence from the Land of Israel. Every individual Palestinian who wakes up in the morning and decides to raise a knife to harm a Jew needs to know that he will be plunging a blade into the Palestinian cause itself by choosing such a course of action.
In other words, it is not enough to elicit a personal price from the terrorist and his immediate family. An ideological and collective penalty must be assessed too.
If a potential Palestinian attacker knows that his assault will directly result in the construction of a dozen new Jewish homes, or the addition of a new Jewish neighborhood, he might just think twice before pursuing the path of violence.
For this to be effective, a clear linkage must be drawn such that any attempt to reduce the number of Jews living in the Land of Israel will be met by efforts to increase that number.
This is a blood-free option, and it is not without precedent.
In fact, it is rooted in the Zionist response to the Arab riots of 1936.
Alarmed by the growing Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, Arab rioters attacked Jaffa on April 19, 1936, and killed 16 Jews. Shortly thereafter, the Arab High Command launched a general strike, and insisted that the British mandatory authorities adopt measures aimed at restricting the expansion of the Yishuv, as the Jewish community of Israel was then known.
The leaders of the Yishuv, such as David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, faced a dilemma. To appease Arab violence would require agreeing to the cessation of Jewish immigration and land reclamation. But such an option would not only have run counter to basic Zionist principles, it would have further weakened the shaky demographic equation between Jews and Arabs in the struggle over who would control the land.
In his memoirs, Ben-Gurion describes how the Yishuv ultimately decided to respond to the Arab demands: “The Yishuv defended itself with courage, wisdom, and restraint... Not one Jewish settlement was abandoned; instead, new ones were established” (Israel: A Personal History, p. 48).
Rather than yielding to Arab threats and violence, Ben-Gurion and the Zionist leadership pressed forward.
In the face of those who sought to reduce the Jewish population, they responded by intensifying efforts to enlarge it as much as possible.
Modern-day Israel would do well to follow this example.
Of course, it is still crucial to employ traditional counter- terrorism measures, such as deploying more police and soldiers, and cracking down on wild-eyed Palestinian incitement. But if we want to put a serious dent in the motivation of the terrorists, we must hit back at the Palestinians where it really hurts them most: on the issue of settlements.
After all, there is a reason why one of the Palestinians’ primary complaints in the international arena is regarding the expansion of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. They are afraid, because they know that every new Jewish home built further strengthens our presence on this land, and will make it that much more difficult for them to uproots us.
If the Palestinians are made to understand that terrorism will have precisely the opposite result of what they intend, you can be sure that they will move quickly to contain it, if only because it does not serve their own perceived interests.
An added benefit of such a policy is that the Palestinians will have only themselves to “blame” for continued building in the settlements. Every Palestinian attacker will know that when he pulls the trigger or slashes with a dagger, he is in effect issuing a building permit for another Jewish neighborhood in Itamar, Beit El or Kiryat Arba.
So let’s hit back at terrorism in a constructive fashion, and bolster the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria in the face of our foes.
The pen that approves new Jewish building may very well prove to be mightier than the unsheathed Palestinian sword.