It is a sad time for our people.
This week marked the hundredth day since the beginning of the current wave of terror that has since seen 24 Jews killed, Hy”d. Approximately 300 injured: Of them, 26 seriously, 9 moderately to seriously, 37 moderately, 11 moderately to lightly, and 181 lightly hurt. 112 orphans cry for their slain parents. In a number of cases, they have been orphaned of both parents. The atmosphere in the Israeli street is harsh, gloomy, suppressed anger. It will not be long before it explodes.
The senior security officials, like their counterparts on the civilian side, are proceeding as if the situation can continue like this and we can live with it. “It could be worse,” they say in closed conversations. Not a very clever approach. As long as the terrorists do not feel that they, their families, and those around them are paying a heavy price for the situation, nothing will change. They will continue to stab people, not only in Chevron and Gush Etzion, but also next to the Central Bus Station in Yerushalayim and in other crowded places in the country.
A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened the entire defense leadership for a joint discussion on the deployment of IDF forces in Gush Etzion. Then, as this week, there was an increase in the number and seriousness of terror incidents. The feeling in the meeting was one of urgency. One sentence was heard repeatedly: “We have to do something, else.” It was as if they were saying that they were not doing enough.
The conclusion was that it was impossible to allow the situation to continue as it was. It had to be changed. There had to be a powerful response. No longer merely to continue on the defense, indefinitely, with pylons and barriers at bus stops. More than one official asked during the discussion: When will the day come when we decide on the expulsion of families of the terrorists, to the Gaza Strip, to Lebanon, to deport them from the country? There were those who mentioned that the effect of expulsion, when it was implemented in the distant past, brought impressive results. “What are we waiting for?” asked one of the generals. “For suicide bombings?”
Last week it was revealed that the security forces caught, b’chasdei Shamayim, a huge cell, of some 25 operatives, who had begun to organize suicide bus bombings. Laboratories were uncovered where the terrorists were already assembling bombs of horrifyingly murderous power.
Why should the parents of a terrorist, who knew that their son was going to carry out an attack, not be expelled from their homes? asked one of the participants in the meeting. Why do we rush to return the bodies of terrorists to villages which continue to produce terrorists and murderers? asked another.
The prime minister summarized the discussion with a rather vague, non-committal statement: “We will increase the pressure.” How? Where? When? He didn’t say, and as long as there is no detail, the words hang in the air, and nothing is done to change the situation.
Israel has already deployed 12 brigades, and is planning to send out more next month. The government decided to install security pylons at bus stops in Yerushalayim. To put more surveillance devices in the air. Helicopters. Arrest raids in Yehudah and Shomron have expanded, but not only has the situation not improved, it’s getting worse.
At that same meeting, it was concluded that there would be restrictions placed on Palestinians’ access to shopping centers, in Gush Etzion and elsewhere. More checkpoints would be set up at intersections terrorists are likely to use for escape, and there would be a search for a solution to the problem of roadways used jointly by Jews and Palestinians. From all these resolutions, almost nothing has yet come. Some were rejected by legal counsel. Others were set aside because it was decided that they might be counter-productive, after all. In short: everything remained as it was.
And this is precisely Israel’s problem. It is allowing the Palestinians to dictate the terms, Israel being dragged along, reacting weakly. Israel is on the defensive, sending reinforcements and more reinforcements. And the Palestinians “celebrate.” Because they feared a harsh response but there was none. The terrorists have become heroes of the Palestinian street.
“We are not imposing any limitations on the army or security forces,” Binyamin Netanyahu said recently when he visited Gush Etzion. In other words: The army can do as it sees fit to quell the disorders. But the army does not feel it has a free hand. Anyway, why should the army decide? Why doesn’t the civilian leadership issue orders which are aimed at crushing the terror by any means necessary? And this is a decision which, to date, has not been made and conveyed to the military.
And in the absence of an order that focuses on the elimination of the terror, it continues, and the great danger is that it will escalate to something much worse — shootings and suicide bombings. The prime minister proposed in that same meeting, “to revoke the work permits of the families of the terrorists.” So he proposed. Senior military officials torpedoed the idea.
“We have a big ‘toolkit’ with which to act against the terrorists,” said Netanyahu.
In reality, there is no toolkit. Just weakness.