'What deters terrorists most is the thought of what will happen to their families'

Former National Security Council head Uzi Dayan advocates for expelling the families of terrorists, arguing that when fighting terror, "the end justifies the means."

Israeli army machines demolish a Palestinian house during an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli army machines demolish a Palestinian house during an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin
(photo credit: REUTERS)
These days, when Transportation Minister Israel Katz is promoting a controversial bill to expel the families of terrorists as a method to combat the current wave of terror, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, who served as head of the National Security Council during the second intifada, has a decisive opinion on how the situation should be handled.
"In bloody days like we are seeing now, every effort must be made to destroy homes and expel families," he says. "And if this is not possible, at least [to move them] within the territory, from the city in which the terrorist's family lives to a different city."
Dayan, who is currently the chairman of the Mifal Hapayis national lottery, bases his view on a study on suicide bombers carried out by the National Security Council at the height of the second intifada, in the early 2000s. The aim of the study was to check if these terrorists shared similar characteristics, what their motivation was to carry out suicide attacks, and especially what might deter them from launching their fatal act.
"The interesting thing is that what deterred them most was the thought of what would happen to their families," Dayan explains.
"Expulsion, as far as they're concerned, is considered worse than home demolition, because it uproots them from their ancestral home. Even if you are expelled from Hebron to Gaza, you are still a refugee. These are not your brothers, and nobody loves foreigners, certainly not dangerous ones. That's why Hamas made sure that those terrorists did not see their families in the weeks prior to the attacks. If the family would have known, in most cases, they would not have been carried out."
The study was compiled by Prof. Ariel Merari, who managed research of Palestinian terror at the National Security Council for seven years. "He needed an original idea of how to interview suicide bombers," Dayan recalls. "It turned out that it was possible to do so. We gathered all of the terrorists who advanced with suicide attacks until the last stage. They actually pressed the button or turned the key, and for whatever reason, it didn't work. We didn't take those who had a change of heart 200 meters until the end. There were about 20 terrorists. We interviewed them in Arabic, their mother tongue."
What were your conclusions?
There was not a one-dimensional profile of a terrorist. However, the main motivation was what they would say about them on the street, at the elementary school. Would they hang their pictures on the wall? Would there be backing for the act from Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, for instance?"
Matters of ego?
"The atmosphere in the village was important to them. 'What a hero', or 'Whoever did this is an idiot, he hurt the Palestinian struggle.' At that time it was Hamas suicide bombers, and they had a course, with training. Hamas found weaker people, who could be influenced, who already may have had suicidal thoughts, and trained them, mainly mentally."
"Reward and punishment"
Dayan recognizes the difference between today's terrorists and the terrorists of the second intifada: "Today, the terrorists are younger and less guided by organizations. The organizations in the Palestinian Authority give backing with incitement and in their general attitude. There is less use of weapons, but that could change. If you need an explosive device, then it will likely be more organized. There's someone who will provide it. But the basic spirit of killing Jews has not changed."
Regarding the second intifada survey, Dayan says that the conclusions were made and presented to the decision-makers, but by then he had finished his role at the National Security Council, the intifada had dwindled and the expulsion of terrorists' families was not carried out. "There were legal difficulties in expulsion back then, and they exist today as well," Dayan says. "I think that, in normal times, we would say, 'the goal does not justify the means'. But today, the main consideration is what defense you provide the citizens with, and expelling the families, in my experience, is the thing that influences the terrorist and his family. A legal effort must be made, because, at the end of the day, there are good judges in Jerusalem. We will not do things that the justice system decides are illegal. The argument that it doesn't give us a good name in the world - must be considered, but it is not the main consideration."
Opponents to this step will say that the terrorist's family shouldn't pay for his crimes
"The war on terror is the thing in which it is possible to take far-reaching steps, and we should do so. The end justifies the means, and there is a difference between a terrorist who left his parents home one morning and carried out an attack, and someone who hasn't lived at his family home for five years. These are the types of things that must be considered and taken into account. However, if someone leaves home with a knife, then I don't believe the family. We must take action on this to the extent that the law allows. Why? Because it is effective and just. Reward and punishment. It will save lives and the destruction of homes and families."
"Time is not in their favor"
In 2002, when the idea of expelling families arose, then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein announced that he was against the measure, because it contradicted international law and the Geneva Convention.
"I actually think that it does not contradict the Geneva Convention," Dayan says today. "The Geneva Convention applied to the occupied territories and Israel does not see this as occupied territory. There is also an argument who it captured the land from, certainly not from the Palestinians, but I don't want to get into the details, even though it should be explored. In general, an effort must be made to find a way to expel or to demolish homes, and it's very important that it be done quickly. If it's done a year later, then the deterrence value decreases."
Why is it not being implemented?
"As a basic approach, terror is terror, and a terrorist is a terrorist. The main difference is, how widespread is it. At the end of the day, if you take Judea and Samaria, the ones whose lives are in danger are the Jews, not the Arabs, and therefore, on specific questions you must take that into consideration. If the phenomenon becomes a plague on the state, like terror, it must be treated as such. If it doesn't, you must fight it and inflict punishment of the utmost severity.
"By the way, as a country, Jewish terror hurts us more than Arab terror. Therefore we must address it with the utmost seriousness, as far as investigating and bringing these people to justice. When the time for punishment comes, we must consider the question of how extensive the phenomenon is. Any place that is under your control, and you can act in accordance with the criminal justice system, then work in accordance with criminal law, and in any place not in your full control, you must act as if you are at war."
What do you think about efforts at dialogue?
There are efforts in five areas: diplomatic-political, military, economic, legal and awareness. Only if you turn all five fingers into a fist which you use over time with perseverance, can you effectively fight terror. As far as a diplomatic horizon, I remember too well the days in which there was a diplomatic horizon, and buses exploded in Tel Aviv. I was then part of the [defense] establishment. When does terror get stronger? Many times it is when there is a diplomatic horizon. You make progress in negotiations and get close to agreements, and then some increase terror in order to gain leverage, while others increase terror so that negotiations will cease. I am not against dialogue, but I am against the illusion that it will eliminate terror. From experience, the opposite is true. No Palestinian leader will sign an agreement that starts with the words: "an end to the conflict and all future claims.'"
Why are you so convinced?
"That was my view ten years ago, as well as 15 years ago. I said that the Palestinians would not agree to sign a permanent agreement in Jerusalem, even one that would promise them the earth. They would have been perceived as the ones who gave the Jews what Saladdin liberated. They would have been perceived as traitors. Nobody signs a deal that relinquishes their dreams, and certainly not with Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], who is weaker than his predecessors. What do you need to do? To make an effort on economic issues. Such big differences between Israel, a high-tech country, and the Palestinians, which is a third world area - are bad over time. Therefore, rather than placing our hope on a permanent agreement, we must start from the bottom: from education, preventing incitement and providing a better economic future."
This is living from terror wave to terror wave
It is impossible to rule out this possibility. I only want to say that time is not playing into the Palestinians' hands. This wasn't always the case, but today the Palestinian issue is losing its place on the world stage, and even in Arab countries, it is not among the five biggest issues. It is naive to think that a Palestinian state would be a rose of democracy among thistles of terror. If elections were held today, in my opinion Hamas would get more than 80 percent of the votes."