Closing loopholes

Israel is visibly taking steps to close security loopholes between east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

idf checkpoint 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
idf checkpoint 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Two decisions made this week to close loopholes that compromise Israel's security are as welcome as they are overdue. The first, a ruling of the High Court of Justice, authorizes the government to seal off two incomplete sections of the security barrier just north of Jerusalem, in areas that connect West Bank villages to Arab neighborhoods in the eastern part of the capital. Through these very breaches have come several suicide bombers - including, the security establishment suspects, the one who killed nine innocent people in South Tel Aviv this week. As Security Fence for Israel founder Marc Luria aptly said in response to the court's ruling, "Perhaps if the court had made these decisions earlier, Monday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv would not have occurred." The second decision relates to the exploitation of another of Israel's weaknesses in east Jerusalem: the cabinet's move to revoke the permanent resident status that Hamas members living there have enjoyed until now. "They can't have it both ways," said a government official, explaining the decision. "If they are part of a government that doesn't renounce terrorism, recognize Israel or accept previous agreements, there will be a price to pay." Admittedly, that price will pale in comparison to the one that has been paid by the victims of Hamas's relentless campaign of terrorism. But it is a price, just the same - one that should have been collected a few years ago, when the government began reversing a similarly absurd situation whereby the families of suicide bombers received generous National Insurance Institute benefits. A precedent, of sorts, was set in the run-up to January's elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, in which Hamas members were prevented from campaigning in east Jerusalem. And just as that step did not significantly harm Hamas's ascent to power, the move to revoke residency status from its members living in east Jerusalem is mostly symbolic. It does, however, send an important message to Israel's enemies: No longer will you be able to plot our demise from within. The same government official who justified this measure acknowledged that it would not cripple Hamas, but explained, "It will show them that there are personal consequences for their actions." The effort to ensure consequences appears to be key to the new government's treatment of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. The consequences of Hamas's continued insistent commitment to terrorism are clear: no negotiations, no funding, no safe haven within Israel from which to encourage extremism and, through the ongoing construction of the security fence in the West Bank, increasingly constrained access to our buses, restaurants and markets. Consequences may also be relevant in dealing with the group of Arab MKs who, two days after the latest suicide-bomb outrage, went to meet with a Hamas parliamentarian from east Jerusalem. Following the cabinet's decision to revoke his residency, their visit, they said, was aimed to protest that decision and also to propose a cease-fire initiative. Israeli Arab MKs have often sought to serve as a bridge of conciliation between Israelis and Palestinians - and potentially usefully so when asked to play that role by the Israeli government. That was emphatically not the case this time. Given that the man they went to meet, Muhammad Abu Teir, is a Hamas spokesman who has been jailed for anti-Israeli activities, the notion that the visiting group of Arab MKs believed something constructive would emerge from their solidarity call strains credulity. Indeed, the visit appears closer to the kinds of offensive visits conducted by the likes of fellow Israeli Arab MK Azmi Bishara, including a trip to an anniversary service for the late Syrian dictator Hafez Assad at which he made a speech that sounded distinctly like a call for Hizbullah action against Israel. Arab MKs do themselves, their community and their country a disservice in initiating overtures to enemy states, terrorist entities and their leaders. Essentially, this group offered succor to a terrorism advocate, a parliamentarian from a government that, because of its commitment to the destruction of this country, Israel is seeking to isolate. Such ill-conceived behavior, too, may necessitate the closing of loopholes.