The Elephant in the Room

Palestinian terrorism, in all its forms, is the elephant in the room that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.

In the past few days alone, Israel has seen:

  • Hundreds of Palestinian rioters from Beit Lechem attack IDF soldiers with stones, metal bars and Molotov cocktails as they tried to break into Kever Rochel;
  • Hundreds of Palestinian rioters from Ramallah and environs try to break into the community of Beit El on what should have been a peaceful Shabbos afternoon;
  • Two-year-old Avigail Ben Tzion suffer serious head injuries after being hit in the head with a rock in a Palestinian ambush in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of southern Yerushalayim;
  • A bus in Yerushalayim’s Gilo neighborhood come under stoning attack.

At a two-day seminar held this week for IDF officers from the Central Command, which is responsible for Yehudah and Shomron, the head of the command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, acknowledged the obvious: “We are seeing an increase in terror.”

The question is what’s behind this increase in terror and what can be done about it. The Left says that the increase is due to Palestinian frustration at the absence of a peace deal, and the solution is to therefore make more concessions and advance what is euphemistically known as the “peace process.”

The Right argues the opposite. The problem is that Israel, in its pursuit of peace and its granting of unreciprocated concessions, has given up its deterrence and makes the rioters bolder and bolder.

There was a time when it was unheard of for Palestinians to approach armed Israeli soldiers. But the knowledge that these soldiers aren’t allowed to fire their weapons unless they are in imminent, life-threatening danger emboldens the rioters to engage in such provocations as attacking Kever Rochel and Beit El.

In addition, the fact that hardened killers were released to get the Palestinians to show up at the peace talks made it clear to the youths who threw large stones at two-year-old Avigail Ben Tzion that they didn’t have much to lose — even if they were caught.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has done a good job of making the world aware of the Iranian nuclear threat. Some say he has gone overboard, recklessly straining Israel’s ties with the United States to the breaking point.

But he’s been strangely quiet about the threat of Palestinian terrorism, which, according to no less a prominent thinker than Nobel laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann, is a greater threat than Iran.

“I think he is making a mistake on Iran, a big mistake. I don’t think the problem is as serious as he seems to think,” Aumann told students at Bar Ilan University last month. The real problem, he added, is the PA’s terrorism and incitement.

By failing to address Palestinian incitement and violence, the government sets the stage for rioting on the part of Israeli Arabs, who identify themselves as Palestinians, as we saw just this week in Haifa and the Negev. The violent clashes, involving thousands of Arabs, were ostensibly over a plan to house the Bedouin in an orderly fashion, but this was just a pretense.

“The demonstrations don’t come from within the Bedouin community,” Dror Almog, who heads the implementation team for resettling the Bedouin, told Ha’aretz. “I’ve even received a letter of apology from one tribal head, seeking forgiveness for the violent incidents.” The problem, he added, is that Arab MKs are making a manipulative effort to link the situation of the Negev Bedouin with that of the Arabs in the Galilee, the Palestinian conflict and the riots in the Arab world.

The mounting Palestinian violence, spurred on by PA incitement, is an internal threat that makes it impossible for Jews to lead normal lives, for a family like the Ben Tzions to drive home from a visit to the zoo without putting their two-year-old daughter in mortal danger.

It’s time for the prime minister to take this threat seriously. In his talks this week with visiting Secretary of State John Kerry, he must raise the issue of Palestinian incitement, including the broadcast on an official PA site of masked men with missiles threatening to fire them in the heart of Israel, or what it calls “occupied Palestinian territories.”

Moreover, it’s time to change “open fire” rules that encourage Palestinian violence and jeopardize the lives of soldiers. The mere announcement that these rules have been changed would send a message to the Palestinian rioters and help restore deterrence.

But the most important change has to take place in the mindset of the Israeli government. Israel has to get back to basics. To understand that it has a responsibility to live up to the expectations of the One who can ensure its safety against all threats, from near and far.

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