The four terrorist attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in the last two weeks – in Beersheba, Hadera, Bnei Brak and Gush Etzion – were a sad reminder that as long as the endless conflict between ourselves and the Palestinians is not resolved, we are destined to suffer from bouts of terrorism, with brief periods of quiet in between, and every once in a while a military operation, usually followed by another brief period of quiet.
I am not saying that a resolution of the conflict is or is not possible, but maintain that both sides are to blame for this gloomy reality.
I am inclined to agree with former MK and minister Yossi Beilin, who, when he wrote about the Oslo Accords, of which he was the main architect, argued that the accords, which proposed a process by stages, had an inbuilt fault – namely, that in the absence of an immediate permanent solution, extremists on both sides would have the opportunity to grow in strength and determination and thwart the effort. That is exactly what happened.
ON FIVE occasions I found myself just seconds away from actually being inside terrorist events.
The first time was on March 11, 1978, when the Coastal Road attack by Palestinian terrorists, who entered Israel from the sea, ended with 38 persons being killed – including 13 children.
I and my family were on our way back from Haifa to Jerusalem. A second before we entered Highway 2 on the outskirts of Haifa, the highway was blocked by the police, and we were forced to change course. Since Highway 4 was also blocked, we returned to Jerusalem via the Jordan Valley. Only after we returned home safely did we realize what a close call it had been.
The last time I was involved in such a situation was some 20 years ago. I was driving back home from the Dead Sea, and arrived at the Ma’aleh Adumim Road/Highway 60-Highway 1 junction. It was blocked, since a terrorist attack was taking place. My car was, in fact the first to be stopped. Fortunately for me, the terrorists concentrated on those standing at the bus station, and didn’t manage to reach the cars and drivers before being “neutralized.”
The three remaining events occurred in the center of Jerusalem.
These traumatic moments left a deep impression on me, but I also remember that on none of these occasions did the crowd blame the government, call for the prime minister to go home, or yell “Death to the Arabs.” On all these occasions the political parties also reacted in unison, and no one tried to make political hay out of the situation.
THIS TIME, but especially after the murderous attack in Bnei Brak, it was a completely different opera. Five persons were killed in Bnei Brak – two of them Jews, and three non-Jews: a Christian-Arab policeman, and two illegal Christian Ukrainian workers.
The Christian-Arab police officer, Amir Khouri, was one of two policemen who sought contact with the terrorist, and was killed in the crossfire. While his body still lay by his motorcycle on the street, the mob was yelling “Death to the Arabs.” The police were furious. There are around 1,200 Christian and Muslim Arabs serving in the police force, and only around 200 haredim. The mob was also getting in the way of TV reporters trying to provide the public at home with a description of the situation.
Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that there were some haredim who chose to attend Khouri’s burial, a Christian service, at the Nof Hagalil Cemetery, in recognition of the fact that he had prevented many more casualties. But the conduct of the mob in real time was shameful.
As mentioned above, it is customary that when terrorist attacks by Palestinians take place, the opposition avoids criticizing the government – at least for a while. But that is not what happened this time. Though initially the leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, published a moderate statement, before long he used the opportunity to attack the government for its failure to foresee what had happened, and blamed the presence of MK Mansour Abbas and his party in the coalition for tying the hands of the government, even though Abbas did nothing to try to block the harsh measures taken by the security forces since the attacks.
This is all pure hypocrisy. In the years 2009-2021, when Netanyahu was prime minister, the security forces were no more successful in preventing all the terrorist attacks than they are today. There were in the past, and there still are, hundreds of planned attacks that are thwarted, thus saving the lives of thousands.
One also tends to forget that during Netanyahu’s 12 years in power after 2009, Israel’s security system was headed and run by Ehud Barak in the years 2009-2013, Moshe Ya’alon in 2013-2016, Avigdor Liberman in 2016-2018, Naftali Bennett in 2019-2020, and Benny Gantz in 2020-2021. Netanyahu himself served briefly as defense minister after Liberman resigned. With the exception of Netanyahu, all the men mentioned above are either heads of the current government, or back it from outside.
It is also a total illusion that Netanyahu dealt more effectively with Israel’s security problems than Bennett is doing today, whether we are talking of Palestinian terrorist activities, or Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu was undoubtedly a much better actor than Bennett, and is much better at gimmicks than him.
Recently, MK Miri Regev, in one of her interviews of incitement in the media, argued that Bennett should deal exclusively with one issue and one issue only: Iran.
The sad truth is that after Netanyahu’s shameful appearance in Congress when Barack Obama was still president, and his “ingenious” move of convincing President Donald Trump to walk out of the nuclear agreement with Iran (to what effect?), if Netanyahu were today prime minister of Israel, its relations with the US would leave it with even less influence on the administration’s policy toward Iran than it has today under Bennett. President Joe Biden hates his guts.
But to return to Regev, does she still think that Bennett should deal exclusively with Iran? Her own contribution to the current situation was to turn up in Bnei Brak on the night of the attack and prance (literally) with a local crowd while singing “We have no one to depend on except for our Father in Heaven.” Regev’s own explanation of the event was that she had initiated the singing because the crowd started chanting: “Death to the Arabs.” But why was she there in the first place? To incite against the government? Perhaps primaries considerations?
There is no doubt that the current blind hatred of the government by large sections of the public has more to do with Netanyahu’s fourth government (2015-2019) than with objective reasons. That government did everything in its power to delegitimize the Left, human rights organizations, the Arabs and anyone who dared challenge Netanyahu from within the Right.
Today, as leader of the opposition, Netanyahu continues to do everything in his power to delegitimize the same groups, which make up the current government, and doesn’t miss an opportunity to attack it – this time about the tragic results of the current round of Palestinian terrorism.
Shame on him.