As reports of the attack on the streets of Bnei Brak flood in, the nation is shocked, saddened and horrified. The images and security footage record the brutal atrocities that sow terror amongst Israel’s citizens. Although this is not an existential threat, we cannot be expected to live and exist under these conditions, and with the constant fear of terrorism only a street away.
I usually don’t speak out immediately after such tragic occurrences like these most recent attacks in Israel, but we are witnessing a terror wave the likes of which we have not seen in many years and one that does not seem to be drawing to a close. One attack has led to another attack which has led to a further attack. This cycle does not seem to have an end.
So, it is time to talk and it is time to act. Israel has the intelligence and operational capabilities to stem this barbaric tide of terrorism. Now, our leadership needs to take decisive action that will receive support from all sectors of the population. This is a significant test against the extremist forces trying to undermine the peace and security of all Israeli citizens.
All our capabilities must be activated against the terrorist cells operating in Judea and Samaria and the extremist groups that have sprung up among Israeli Arabs. I have no doubt that there will be those who will immediately put forward concerns regarding the use of our security services and the IDF among Israel’s civilian population.
However, at this point we need to take a step back and reassess the purpose of the IDF. The role of Israel’s Defense Forces is, as its name implies, to defend and protect Israel’s citizens everywhere, at any time. This exact same deployment of soldiers happened throughout COVID-19, when soldiers were stationed at checkpoints all over the country. It was done in one emergency situation and there is no reason why it cannot be utilized in another.
Clear objectives must be set by the Israeli government for Israel’s security forces. The terrorist cells must be cleaned up, the illegal stockpiles of weapons must be located and confiscated, and law and order must be restored throughout the country. Exercising military force among civilian populations is a sensitive and complex issue, but the reality before us means it has also become a necessity.
About thirty years ago during the Gulf War, Palestinian terrorism raised its ugly head. As rockets from Iraq landed around the center of Israel, Arab extremists celebrated on rooftops in the Gaza Strip. At this time, I was completing the IDF officers course. In light of the situation, we were deployed from our base in the south into the Gaza Strip.
My platoon was stationed in the Al-Bureij area, and every day was tough and literally explosive. One evening, we were told we had to carry out a special operation, where we surrounded a village in the dead of night. In the darkness, we went from house to house and conducted a careful search.
I will not forget the acute discomfort I felt every time we entered a house to search for weapons. In the morning, we gathered all the weapons from all the houses in the village school grounds, all designed to murder and maim Israeli civilians and soldiers. I understood at this point the importance of our mission the night before. Today, we need to decide whether to avoid unpleasantness or act decisively.
We know that the use of force and the exercise of our sovereign rights in every city and village will be challenged and protested by many extremist voices. Yet, the first to welcome the collection of illegal weapons will be the Arab citizens of Israel who suffer from crime and terrorism daily.
Terror attacks on the streets of Hadera, a shooting spree in Bnei Brak, and the assaults and murder of innocent civilians last week in Beersheba, this current wave of terrorism cannot be allowed to continue. We must not wait for the next assault. Israel’s security cabinet must be making clear and unfaltering decisions to enable our IDF soldiers to protect Israeli citizens.
The writer was Israel’s 17th permanent representative to the United Nations and is chairman of World Likud.