Parting Shot: What now?

We may not like Abbas, and we may see him as aiding and abetting terrorism, but unfortunately, it’s time to play the cards we were dealt.

Israeli border police officers walk at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli border police officers walk at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Is whether you think we’re in the throes of a third intifada a Right- Left issue? And if so, who is taking which side and for what purposes? Based on an unscientific informal poll I conducted this week, it would seem that many leaning toward the Left are downplaying the accelerated rate of attacks – dubbed the “Knife Intifada” by Palestinian tweeters – as just another flare-up in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Anything – even the last two weeks of deadly knife attacks and car rundowns – that seems to complicate the end game of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians are deemed isolated incidents and can’t be compared in any way to the rash of suicide terrorist bombings that typified the second intifada of 2000- 2005 or the prolonged level of intense protests that characterized the first intifada of 1987-1993.
When The Post’s Jerusalem correspondent Dan Eisenbud wrote a story a few months ago on Abu Tor residents expressing alarm over the unrest from the neighborhood’s Arab residents and fear about living there, there was an outcry of response from the Baka Bubble – that bastion of liberal south Jerusalem Anglo immigrants who would be loath to concede that Arab protesters hate them as much as they hate settlers in Gush Etzion. And they would never condemn the wave of wanton Palestinian terrorism without placing equal blame on the “hardline” policies of the Netanyahu government.
On the other side, many of those pushing for the official declaration of a third intifada are staunchly ensconced on the Right. For them, it’s proof positive that there is no chance of any kind of accord with the Palestinian people led by Mahmoud Abbas, and the only way to deal with the violence is with an iron fist. If it results in collective punishment, so be it.
For them, the Jerusalem car attacks and this week’s spread of attacks to Tel Aviv and Alon Shvut are being carried out in a vacuum. They’re unable to look beyond the apparently unorganized lone-man acts of terrorism to see a collective sense of despair caused by the absence of any sense that they will one day live in the state of Palestine. Their bottom line is that Palestinians can choose to live under Israeli rule or leave.
I was on a panel discussion on BBC radio this week with a young Palestinian woman who was born in and lives in east Jerusalem. Articulate and passionate, she repeatedly referred to the army and police presence there as the “Israeli occupying force.” For her, while condemning the terrorist attacks, the Israeli presence in her neighborhood justified the protests, whether they were peaceful or violent.
She didn’t care whether it was called an intifada or not – her outbursts were the genuine expression of a population that will no longer tolerate living under Israeli rule in “unified” Jerusalem.
It’s the way they express that frustration that’s abhorrent. That’s why the families of Dalya Lamkus and Almog Shiloni probably also don’t care whether it’s an intifada or not – the heartbreaking results are the same either way.
So what do we do? Even if the current wave of unrest fades or is quelled by force, without dealing with the root issues, it will only return again, as assuredly as the next war in Gaza against Hamas.
Before anything else, there has to be outright, unequivocal condemnation of the wave of terrorism – it must come from the Palestinian Authority and its leadership, from Arab MKs, from left-wing NGOs and journalists, and it must not be tied into whatever actions on the Israeli side may or may not have contributed to or triggered the death and destruction. Murder is murder, and no amount of rationalization or justification will change that. Where is a moderate Palestinian leader who will dare to make that statement? It would also be nice, for once, for the US to issue a statement condemning the violence without calling for calm on both sides, but instead placing the onus directly on those perpetrating the violence – the Palestinians.
The next step is for Israel’s streets and its citizens to be made to feel safe again.
There’s been a marked increase in police presence in the capital this week, but they can’t be everyplace and protect everyone at the same time. The Palestinian leadership, instead of hailing terrorists as heroes, needs to impose its own discipline on its people and convince them that their actions are damaging their own cause.
Of course, they can’t be responsible for telling Jerusalem Arabs what to do while at the same time Israel runs the affairs of Jerusalem Arabs. But as long as those residents feel emboldened and boosted by Abbas’s utterings and the lone-wolf terrorists rife in Palestinian society, the chances of the Palestinians reaching their national aspirations are nil. Israel cannot – and should not – negotiate under the threat of terrorism.
If that condition is achieved, Israel should attempt to set a period of time in which nothing it does – no matter how justified – can be construed as an excuse for claims of Israeli intransigence or incitement. That includes safeguarding the Temple Mount status quo even though Jews should be able to pray there, and not issuing building plans for post-1967 Jerusalem neighborhoods even though Israel has every right to build there.
Admittedly, steps like this proved fruitless the last time Israel went down that path, due to Palestinians’ stonewalling instead of taking advantage of the lull to sit down and talk. But at the same time, it was clear that Benjamin Netanyahu had no real interest into entering into meaningful negotiations with the PA.
That needs to change – we should pursue that engagement with the Palestinians as vigorously as we fight terrorism.
No matter how odious Abbas may be to some Israelis, he’s the leader of the Palestinians until they ever have another election, if ever.
Former head of the Mossad Efraim Halevy recently gave a lecture in Jerusalem in which he said that one of Israel’s historic problems was a certain arrogance that attempted to dictate who our neighbors’ leaders should be. We may not like Abbas, and we may see him as aiding and abetting terrorism, but unfortunately, it’s time to play the cards we were dealt.
It may be the only way to prevent more young, beautiful and innocent lives like those of Dalia Lamkus and Almog Shiloni from falling victim to Palestinian terrorism.