ANALYSIS: Terror by Arson

Smoke billows Haifa, where a major fire is raging Thursday. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
Smoke billows Haifa, where a major fire is raging Thursday. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

It wasn’t the wind that changed direction – it was the terrorists. Those who failed to achieve anything by the rock or the knife, rammings and shootings, have chosen a new horizon of action, in the hopes that it will achieve more than the former methods.

On the first day of the fires, there were incredulous reactions to the assertion that we were witnessing acts of terror and nothing else. But by Thursday, just about everyone was admitting that it was terrorism.

The words they had refrained from using at first was on everyone’s lips by Thursday: “This is Palestinian terror.”

In the Israeli media, as in the highest echelons of government, it took 72 hours to realize what should have been clear from the outset. 300 fires don’t happen just like that. Somebody organized them, exploiting the incendiary weather conditions, the dryness and high winds, which became accomplices to terror. Today it’s fire, tomorrow it could take the form of poisoning the water or other things.

Is Israel ready for this kind of terror?

The answer, we are sorry to say, is in the negative. Security officials were slow to pick up on what was happening. Even now, the focus is on saving lives and property, and fails to offer a response to the arsonists. The pronouncements heard from some ministers that “in a few days we will overcome this phenomenon,” are vague and empty. They have no clear idea of how to cope with it.

Furthermore, there are still those who have refused to accept that this is organized arson. They talk of strong winds and other natural causes. Do those strong winds blow only on Mount Carmel in Haifa, and not in Yehudah and Shomron? Of course, they do. So why is it that all 284 fires burned within the Green Line or near the Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron, but not in the Palestinian areas? The answer is obvious.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went to Haifa on Wednesday to consult with fire and security officials and cabinet ministers about the situation. He emerged from the meeting to declare that the firefighters were working around the clock to put out the fires and to save lives. And he warned that anyone convicted of arson will be treated like any other terrorist.

Netanyahu praised the firefighters and thanked the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Croatia. The American supertanker was on the way, he said. He promised help to all those who lost their homes in the conflagrations, though he noted that they were in the dozens, not the hundreds or thousands.

Netanyahu was in Haifa, and he returned to Yerushalayim, where the decisions will have to be made about this new form of terrorism. In the face of this Palestinian creativity, there will have to be a creative response. Without a fitting, forceful response, the acts of terror will only increase, and each time from a new angle. Only a strong response, that generates the realization among the Palestinians that they will gain nothing this way, and only make matters worse for themselves, will stop the terror that shifts as the wind blows, from Ramallah or Gaza.