Reacting to Sarona

The Sarona Market attack will be the first major test for newly appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Netanyahu and Liberman at site of Sarona complex shooting in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Netanyahu and Liberman at site of Sarona complex shooting in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Just a few days into the holy month of Ramadan, two Palestinian terrorists violently disrupted the longest lull in the wave of stabbings, shootings and vehicular attacks that began on Rosh Hashana.
The two young men – residents of Yatta in the South Hebron Hills – entered Israel illegally and made their way to Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market armed with improvised guns.
They sat down at a restaurant, ended their Ramadan fast for the day with an iftar meal, got up and began shooting indiscriminately at the diners around them.
Four people were killed: Forty-two-year-old Ido Ben Ari from Ramat Gan, 39-year-old Ilana Naveh from Tel Aviv, 58-year-old Michael Feige from Midreshet Beersheba and 32-year-old Mila Misheiv from Rishon Lezion. Around a dozen were wounded. Three victims remained in intensive care Thursday morning at nearby Ichilov Hospital.
Since October, 33 Israelis and four others have been killed and hundreds more wounded in a spate of attacks directed at Israeli civilians by Palestinians often operating without direct ties with terrorist organizations. The violence had dramatically waned of late, until the horrific Sarona murders.
What should be Israel’s response to this new round of violence? Within the cabinet there exist two distinct approaches.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz represents the hawkish approach: “The despicable attack in the heart of Tel Aviv necessitates an exceptionally painful Israeli response,” Katz told Army Radio. “We must administer aggressive preventive treatment to Yatta that will be remembered for many years to come. We have to close the village and clean it up. That village gives backing and cover [to terrorism]. It is intolerable that relatives and neighbors of terrorists can grandstand and continue to enter Israel to find employment.”
In contrast, Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a former head of IDF Southern Command, presented a more moderate position.
“If someone believes it is possible to solve our security problem with a single aggressive military action, he apparently does not have much military experience,” Galant told the radio station. “We must not do something that gives immediate satisfaction but ends up entangling us in a more complicated security situation.
I know that things can be better, but I also know that they can be worse. So before you start overreacting, you should be careful.”
With all the difficulty of reining in our natural inclination to seek revenge for Wednesday’s bloody attack, Galant’s levelheaded stance serves Israel’s interests better.
We understand the desire to lash out at those who support terrorism. It was upsetting to watch hundreds of Palestinians near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, in Tulkarm and other locations on the West Bank and in Gaza celebrate the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. But reacting emotionally is counterproductive. If Israel decides to revoke the tens of thousands of working permits allocated to Palestinians with security clearance, will it lower the number of terrorists? If thousands of Palestinians who are not connected to the attack are arrested, will fewer Palestinians support terrorism? We doubt it.
That does not mean nothing can be done. The two Palestinians who carried out the terrorist attack entered Israel illegally. Steps need to be taken to prevent the unmonitored movement of Palestinians from the West Bank into areas with large Israeli population centers. Breaches in the security barrier should be closed. Israelis who employ Palestinians illegally should be punished. And there needs to be more intelligence gathering, including information received through cooperation with the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.
The Sarona Market attack will be the first major test for newly appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Liberman has proven to be a pragmatic minister and politician despite some past incendiary comments about how he thought Palestinian terrorism should be dealt with.
We hope he takes the pragmatic approach and heeds the advice of people like Galant or Ya’akov Amidror, the former national security adviser, who also recommends not overreacting in order not to destabilize the security situation. Liberman the politician was appealing to populism when he made those comments. But Liberman the defense minister carries more serious responsibilities on his shoulders.