Heads Needed in the Fight Against Palestinian Terrorism
By Yaakov Amidror
Perspectives Paper No. 320
November 29, 2015
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: While there is no doubt that Israel is
facing a difficult security situation, the surge in Palestinian violence does
not pose any existential threat to Israel. Israel has weathered longer and
harsher waves of terrorism. Israeli leaders must keep things in proportion, and
reject calls for “massive retaliation” that will not truly improve security
and could make things worse.
The security situation is complex. Israel’s decision to
outlaw the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch may have been unavoidable, but the
surge in Palestinian violence cannot be used as an excuse to promote legislation
targeting Israeli Arabs or infringing on their rights, directly or indirectly.
Such measures will do more harm than good, especially in the long run.
Tempers are running high these days, but if anything this
is when we should make a point of seeing the glass as half full.
Israel is home to 1.7 million Arab citizens, and we should
always keep in mind the astonishing fact that only a handful of them have taken
part in recent violent incidents. After two months of rising terrorism, Israeli
Arabs have remained removed from the cycle of violence. Some may sympathize with
the terrorists, and some may subscribe to the incitement spread by the Islamic
Movement's Northern Branch, but Israeli Arabs have not taken part in the murder
of Israelis. We must examine what can be done to build up this positive trend of
restraint by Israeli Arabs.
Nevertheless, the overall security situation is very
frustrating. Every terrorist attack brings the same question with growing
urgency: What can be done to quell terror and restore the public's sense of
We see no shortage of grandiose statements on this subject,
with suggestions that the IDF launch “a massive military campaign" and
"seize Judea and Samaria." These are nothing but empty words. There is
no need for a massive military campaign, as Operation Defensive Shield in 2002
established the IDF's control over Judea and Samaria, and Israeli forces are
free to operate anywhere in the area.
If there is intelligence of a weapons' cache in the heart
of Nablus, for example, the IDF can deploy troops within a day. The same goes
for executing demolition orders on terrorists' homes. And soldiers pursuing a
suspect can chase him wherever they must, even into a Palestinian hospital.
The suggestion of a door-to-door search for suspects in
Hebron, home to the majority of terrorists involved in the recent knifing and
ramming attacks, is also futile. What are the soldiers supposed to look for –
Over 90% of the attacks were carried out using weapons of
opportunity, from screwdrivers to axes. Only a handful of attacks have involved
The IDF is already free to act on any intelligence or
suspicion as needed, and the defense establishment clearly thinks that
surrounding Hebron is a waste of resources, and that it would only aggravate
friction with civilians who are, for the most part, innocent.
Tense times like these breed a tendency to infringe on the
rights of the minority from which the terrorists emerge. We have seen how even
the leaders of the most enlightened countries – the same ones who preach to
Israel about tolerance and leniency – sideline all semblances of tolerance
when they are hit close to home.
Israel should refrain from imposing harsh and unnecessary
measures on the Palestinians, such as revoking work permits from Palestinians
across Judea and Samaria. This measure would affect the livelihoods of thousands
of families, when so far it is only one terrorist who abused his work permit to
carry out an attack.
Exercising such measures could result in increasing the
number of Palestinians who, feeling they have nothing to lose, might turn to
terrorism. Harsh punishments should be imposed wisely if they are to generate
The truth should also be voiced clearly. Little can be done
to prevent lone terrorists from carrying out their plans, especially when their
motives are no longer clear. Many of the attacks recently have been
"atmosphere attacks," resulting from a killing trend fueled by the
Palestinian Authority's incitement. The PA seems to be the main component in
promoting murder as a "hobby" among the Palestinians, but most attacks
have not been directed by a known terrorist group.
While swift action and the better screening of suspects are
vital to fight the violence, these two measures alone cannot quash it. Acts of
terror are growing in popularity on a global scale, and the Palestinian trend is
inspired by international events.
The wave of terrorism is likely to continue until it proves
itself useless; something that brings only grief to the perpetrators and their
This is why Israel cannot offer any gestures to the
Palestinians. Israel must make it clear that this prolonged violence will yield
There is also a need to avoid unnecessary panic. Rhetoric
suggesting these attacks pose an "existential threat" to Israel is
oblivious to reality and sidelines history in favor of hysteria.
No one can dispute that recent weeks have been stressful
for the Israeli public, especially in Judea and Samaria, where residents come in
greater daily contact with their Palestinian neighbors, which in some cases
makes it easier for terrorists to carry out their vile plans. But the situation
is far from posing an "existential threat." Israel has weathered
longer and harsher waves of terrorism, and they did not pose such a threat.
Neither did Israel's wars.
While there is no doubt that Israel is facing a difficult
situation, the nation will continue to thrive. I believe the economy will grow,
as will the number of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria and the number of
Jews immigrating to Israel. The surge in violence does not pose an
"existential threat." But it does call for keeping things in