Wanted: Two courageous leaders

No one should be surprised by the current return of lone wolf attacks, since nothing has changed in the last few months, years or even decade.

Palestinians hurl rocks at IDF soldiers during clashes in Ramallah (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians hurl rocks at IDF soldiers during clashes in Ramallah
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In August, the IDF published inaccurate data about an alleged decrease in the number of terrorist attacks and claimed there was a downward trend. In reality, though, the number of attacks on Israelis has not changed. The number of “lone wolf” attacks cannot be used to predict trends one way or another and should not be used to forecast activity.
No one should be surprised by the current return of lone wolf attacks, since nothing has changed in the last few months, years or even decade. Three million Palestinians are still living in dire financial straits with no serious leadership to give them hope for a better future. As a result, they are easily swayed by incitement they see on the Internet and hear on the streets and in the mosques. The “friction” they feel during their daily interaction with IDF soldiers at checkpoints does nothing to improve their outlook or to reduce tensions.
While the Palestinians spend their days trying to find ways to support their families, Mahmoud Abbas continues to enjoy the good life at the world’s finest hotels as he runs around giving spouting hate speech and hateful propaganda to anybody who will listen.
But the truth is that nothing substantial has happened on the Israeli side either. The army is the same army, the checkpoints are the same checkpoints, and the settlements continue to grow with the support of and sometimes against the wishes of the current government. And no Israeli government has made any efforts in the past decade to move the peace process forward.
We must admit that there really isn’t a leader we can negotiate with on the Palestinian side. Abbas never functioned as a true leader. His capabilities include spouting false propaganda, inciting violence, and traveling around the world while his people suffer hardship and poverty. The peace treaties that were signed a few decades ago and the hope many of us had for reaching peace between the two nations are as dreams that evaporate with the sunrise. The only thing that is preventing total anarchy or a Hamas takeover is the hard work of the Shin Bet.
The IDF is doing its best to enable the Palestinians to live as normal lives as possible in the West Bank under the current circumstances.
But the West Bank is a powder keg and we spend a lot of time just trying to keep the fuse safe so that it doesn’t accidentally get lit.
Right-wing extremists freely carry out actions against the Palestinians, and frustrated Palestinian youths are constantly attacking settlers and soldiers with knives.
Both communities are looking toward their leaders, praying that they’ll make an effort to improve their lives. But unfortunately they are being ignored as the governments on both sides go on with their daily activities as if life were wonderful.
We might not be capable of eliminating terrorism or of stopping the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation from hating us, but there are things we can do to alleviate the situation.
The vast majority of Palestinians are focused on just getting through the day and putting food on the table for their families.
And to do that they need us. We provide them with jobs, transportation, goods and technology. There won’t be a sovereign Palestinian state here anytime soon, mostly because their own leaders have rejected every possible scenario that would enable them to create one.
But with a little initiative and mutual desire, we could reach an interim agreement that would enable all of us to live better lives and reduce the terrorism to a minimum.
In order to create such a situation, we would have to hermetically seal the barrier between the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories, create checkpoints that only authorized persons – including those with work permits – could pass through.
The number of IDF checkpoints would have to be reduced drastically and the process of allowing people through would need to be completely revamped. They should be technology-based and not allow any Palestinians to come into physical contact with Israelis before they’ve passed initial checks.
Israeli communities need to be located in larger blocs and not in isolated areas where Israeli authorities have a hard time providing security.
The government, with international support, could build industrial zones in Palestinian areas that would be managed and financed by the Palestinian community.
The Shin Bet must continue to prevent Hamas from taking control of the West Bank and thwart terrorist attacks that originate from this area.
The neighborhoods of east Jerusalem which are already de facto completely Palestinian must be given to the Palestinians to control, and a hermetically sealed wall must be built to prevent the infiltration of Palestinians into Israel.
Finally, we must hope that one day soon both sides will elect courageous leaders who will be able to initiate change and progress so that we can all learn to coexist in this seemingly impossible situation.
The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.