For Zion's Sake: This should be the fate of all the Kuntars of the world

The citizens of Israel deserve an offensive policy aimed at dismantling and defeating terrorist organizations and eliminating terrorists on an ongoing basis.

The body of the terrorist killed at the scene of vehicular terror attack near Tapuah Junction on November 8, 2015 (photo credit: RA'AYAH BLOCH)
The body of the terrorist killed at the scene of vehicular terror attack near Tapuah Junction on November 8, 2015
(photo credit: RA'AYAH BLOCH)
An infamous terrorist, a killer of children and most recently a commander of Hezbollah said to be planning attacks against Israel, was killed in a reported Israeli air-strike near Damascus. No civilians appear to have been killed. It was a successful mission by any standard, one which any government would be proud of.
Yet the Israeli government declined to publicly acknowledge the operation. It held no press conference and gave no official statement. Israeli security officials did not acknowledge Israeli involvement. The prime minister did not mention it in the cabinet meeting held the morning after the strike.
Compare that with, for instance, the targeted killing of Mohammed Emwazi or “Jihadi John” by the US in November. Following the drone strike that killed Emwazi, US Army Colonel Steven Warren held a webcast press conference from Baghdad and told reporters that the US was “reasonably confident” Emwazi had been eliminated but it was still too early to verify “success.” Warren admitted that Emwazi “wasn’t a major tactical figure” but said he was a recruitment tool and a “human animal” and that the death of the British-accented executioner who appeared in Islamic State (IS) execution videos would be “a significant blow to [IS’s] prestige.”
Boasting British involvement, UK Prime Minister David Cameron called the strike “an act of self-defense.” US Secretary of State John Kerry declared that while “we are still assessing the results of the strike...the terrorists associated with Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS] need to know this: Your days are numbered and you will be defeated.”
Much of what was said about Emwazi was true of Samir Kuntar, the “human animal” eliminated in what was widely presumed an Israeli air-strike. Kuntar, however, was also reportedly a terrorist commander charged with establishing a terrorist base in the Golan and organizing attacks against Israel. That made him a tactical figure of some import and his elimination truly “an act of self-defense.”
More than that, as a member of the PLO-member group the Palestine Liberation Front, Kuntar took part in one of the most egregious terrorist attacks in Israeli history. In 1979, he personally murdered Danny Haran and Haran’s four-year-old daughter in Nahariya in northern Israel.
Another one of Haran’s daughters also died in the attack.
Kuntar and his gang also killed an Israeli police officer.
Though Kuntar was captured and sentenced to three life terms in Israeli prison, he was ultimately released due to the violent efforts of Hezbollah, and given a hero’s welcome in Lebanon. That made him a great symbol of terrorism, and it seemed, of the triumph of evil.
So why wouldn’t Israel take credit for destroying that symbol? It is possible that Israel was not responsible for it, but this would be highly unlikely. Most of the actors in Syria capable of targeted rocket strikes are busy fighting Hezbollah’s enemies. The Free Syrian Army later claimed it was responsible for the strike, but as noted by the Times of Israel, the FSA “does not have air power of its own” and “[r]ebel groups often take responsibility for actions of others to score public relations victories.” Additionally, only Israel has a unique interest in Kuntar and despite the presumption that Israel conducted the strike, Israel has not denied it.
It is also unlikely that Israel is protecting an intelligence source since Hezbollah is already convinced that Israel is behind the strike and Israel has done nothing to convince it otherwise.
Nor must Israel fear the consequences of violating Syrian sovereignty, since there is no Syrian state and multiple foreign states are already operating in Syria. Israel is also entitled to act against terrorists preparing to attack it. In any case, the prime minister has already acknowledged that Israel is “operating in Syria from time to time in order to stop the country from becoming a front against Israel.”
The more likely reason that Israel has not taken responsibility for killing Kuntar is the political-diplomatic rationale which has become all too embedded in Israeli thinking: the desire to avoid international criticism, whether in the form of UN General Assembly resolutions, EU Commission declarations, US State Department condemnations, or the immature sniping at Israel or its prime minister by senior US officials.
Assuming, however, that Kuntar’s elimination was an opportunity to criticize Israel and that Israeli silence would avoid it, such silence also carries a price.
It means that for the precisely the same reasons Israel declines to take the credit, it will also hesitate to take the type of action which might incur blame.
That makes the elimination of monsters like Kuntar more akin to the exception that proves the rule: Israel is not generally engaged in the targeted killing of terrorist leaders.
For terrorists this means that if you target the innocent you will not necessarily be hunted until you are captured and locked away forever or killed. You might be.
You might not. In fact, the more pressure you and your cohorts put on Israel and the more civilians your slaughter, you might reap a kind of diplomatic immunity. Even if you are captured, you might one day go on to become a celebrity, a commander of a popular terrorist militia, or a Lebanese or Palestinian politician.
To the people of Israel, it means that justice was served, but only decades later and only in this case. For all the other released terrorists out there, those sitting in prison, and those yet unknown, justice might never be served.
And Israelis can never be sure whether their government is hesitating due to international pressure or doing everything possible to protect them. That means more than attempting to frustrate imminent attacks. It includes eliminating terrorists regardless of what they are currently planning.
Kuntar’s elimination was likely part of what the prime minister described as Israel’s policy of preventing the establishment of a new terrorist front against Israel. Kuntar’s involvement in that front was a happy coincidence.
If Kuntar had been in Lebanon or Palestinian-controlled areas, this strike may not have happened.
But as necessary as preventing a new terrorist front in Syria is, it is not part of an Israeli war on terrorism, but a response to the terrorists’ next move in their war on us.
It is status-quo maintenance, in which the existing terrorist entities in Gaza and Lebanon are to be tolerated, not defeated.
In Israeli military-speak, only when the grass grows too high must it be cut and deterrence and quiet restored.
Until the next round, that is.
Maintaining the status quo on so many fronts, however, may be impossible. There is bound to be a breach, including due to battle fatigue or national exhaustion.
Examples include territorial withdrawals and terrorist releases by the hundreds or more, of which Kuntar was only one. Maintaining the status quo also means tolerating a certain level of terrorism perpetrated against Israelis.
The citizens of Israel deserve more. They deserve an offensive policy aimed at dismantling and defeating terrorist organizations and eliminating terrorists on an ongoing basis; a policy in which their government, not terrorism, is an irresistible force of nature, and stops at nothing to bring the people of Israel the terrorists’ heads on spikes and declares: thus ever to the Kuntars of the world.
The writer is a Likud Central Committee member and an attorney.