As the High Holy Days segue into a mundane routine, the Israeli public has become accustomed to a strange new normal: the morning terrorist shooting attack is followed by the afternoon car-ramming attack, and sandwiched between them the news feed is filled with descriptions of violent Arab rioting in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
A day that ends without a body count is considered a miracle – one that doesn’t always happen. Tragically, over the course of Sukkot, two more names were added to the dreaded roll of the fallen: Noa Lazar and Ido Baruch joined the other 24 victims of terrorism in 2022.
For those old enough who remember the mad days of the Oslo “peace” process, the dynamics of this wave of terrorism, and the equally dreaded reactions ranging from “nothing new” to “who is today’s victim,” are horribly familiar. Younger people remember the madness of the 2000s – but either way, it’s deja vu all over again, brought to you by Abu Mazen and company.
This feeling is more than just a gut reaction or an exaggerated response triggered by past trauma; according to Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) data, September was marked by 254 terrorist attacks, two fatalities and 14 injured. These joined the tally of 3,702 documented terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria in the first half of 2022, as reported by Rescuers Without Borders (Hatzalah Yosh), the first responder unit that documents every barbaric attempted murder.
This month, the month of mercy and forgiveness, is not yet over – but it’s already breaking records for terrorism, with 20 shooting attacks during the intermediary days of Sukkot alone, and dozens of stone attacks daily. In the face of this tsunami of violence, many wonder – justifiably – what Defense Minister Benny Gantz has been doing to keep busy over the past few weeks. Gantz, who has gone to great lengths to cultivate his image as “Mr. Defense” as the elections draw closer, hasn’t said a word.
ACTUALLY, GANTZ’S sudden speechlessness is not the least bit surprising, nor is it new; it’s a slightly different take on an all-too-familiar phenomenon: the illegal annexation of state land. From a practical perspective, the two issues are simply two sides of the same coin. Both terrorism and land grabs aim to banish us from our homeland and to establish a Palestinian state in our place – precisely as the Palestinian Authority declares at every opportunity.
The two phenomena differ only in practice, because the stones used in illegal construction aren’t thrown with the intent to kill, they are used to build layer upon layer of facts on the ground, to build the Palestinian state.
There is a clear and undeniable connection between the purposeful “selective blindness” toward illegal Arab construction and the policy of “absorbing” stone throwing and the constant stream of terror and attempted terrorism.
The sum total of these policies indicates that the present government has made a conscious decision to embrace supporters of terrorism (who are members of the current sham coalition), to harm the Jewish settlement enterprise (with brutal demolitions of hilltop outposts on a daily basis), and to actively promote a Palestinian state in the heart of Israel (by approving Palestinian building requests to expand villages at the expense of Israelis state land, by a declaration from the podium of the UN, and by choosing not to enforce the law against massive illegal development and construction that the Palestinian Authority is carrying out at a feverish, nightmarish pace).
This fertile ground is carefully sown by the defense minister, and the fruits are ripening: The sharp rise in terrorism goes hand-in-hand with the sharp increase in illegal construction and illegal land grabs.
The Regavim movement
THE REGAVIM Movement has been documenting illegal Arab construction in Area C for years, warning of the impending Palestinian Authority annexation of Judea and Samaria. In recent months, when our complaints to the Civil Administration about new illegal construction began to pile up at an unprecedented rate, we began to suspect that something new was in the air. When we conducted a full mapping survey of the territory, our fears were confirmed: The rate of illegal Palestinian construction in Area C nearly doubled in the past year.
The data are clear and unequivocal: On average, 15 new illegal structures are built every day, most of them substantial, multistory brick and mortar structures – many of them palatial residences with swimming pools and whirlpools in the yard. As of this writing, the total number of illegal Arab structures in Area C exceeds 80,000; lest we forget, this is in Area C, under full Israeli jurisdiction, not Areas A and B, which are under PA control.
Before our eyes, the battle for Area C of Judea and Samaria, which is a microcosm of the battle for the State of Israel as a whole, has shifted from cement mixers and olive saplings to live fire. Only days ago, Regavim’s field coordinator came under fire while inspecting an illegal construction project on the outskirts of Kiryat Arba. Thankfully, he and the municipality employee accompanying him were unhurt; their quick response saved their lives and helped the IDF eventually apprehend the terrorist.
This shocking incident is just one in a long list of recent terrorist attacks, many of which were launched from illegal structures, which are much more than warning bells. They are a blaring emergency siren that should pierce every Israeli’s apathy and self-delusion. The Palestinian state is taking shape under our noses and is already posing an existential threat to the State of Israel.
The writer is director general of the Regavim Movement, an Israeli nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Israel’s land resources and sovereignty.