The terror attacks come in rapid succession, each new attack making us forget the previous one. The ambush in Hebron Friday night pushed aside the murders at Kibbutz Metzer. Who remembers? The Israel Defense Forces captured Nablus in response to the Metzer attack. Creative, bold, original and with the know-how to eradicate terrorism, the defense minister promised, as a sign of his determination, that this time we will stay in Nablus for a long time.
Indeed, "Wheels of Momentum" - the code name for the Nablus operation - has already chalked up a number of achievements: a teenager who tried to throw a firebomb at a tank was shot and killed, and there have been some arrests.
In another month or two, the IDF will withdraw from Nablus, as well as from Hebron, which was reconquered yesterday, and move to the next-in-line terrorist center, Jenin, or maybe Ramallah or Tul Karm. Officers and military correspondents will then explain with expertise that that is where the real terrorist infrastructure is located, every liquidation will be termed the end of "the individual chiefly responsible for the terrorist infrastructure in northern Samaria," or of the "main engineer" or of the "mastermind." His house will be demolished, and Israel's war on terrorism will continue without letup. Nevertheless, the terrorist attacks come one after another, as unfortunately occured in Hebron this weekend.
New "senior wanted individuals" will make their appearance, replacing their liquidated predecessors, more bomb-manufacturing workshops will be bombed, and the public will know that the IDF is doing everything in its power to protect it, even if unsuccessfully.
Israel's only method of operation continues to be one that has never produced meaningful results. Yet no one - not in the IDF, not in the government, and, above all, not among the public - is asking how long Israel will persist with its automatic responses based on force, in the form of conquest and occupation after every attack, instead of finally trying another route in the wake of the abject failure of the one the government has resorted to for the past two years.
Whether it's "Maybe This Time," "Wheels of Momentum," "Determined Path" or "Defensive Shield," the true balance sheet of the occupation operations with the childish names that the IDF gives them has yet to be reckoned: while the security forces boast about the number of wanted individuals who have been arrested or liquidated, no one really knows how much these operations have actually done to boost terrorism. How many young Palestinians have sworn after every such operation to take revenge for the suffering and humiliation inflicted on them and their parents, when they were imprisoned for long days and nights - children, the elderly, the sick - in their homes, when they had to ask permission of the soldiers to relieve themselves. How many young people have reached the conclusion, and precisely in the course of these cruel operations, that they have no other option but to pursue the violent struggle against the occupier, and worse, that they have nothing left to lose.
The average Israeli has no way of knowing what the Palestinians are enduring as "Wheels of Momentum" takes its course. The papers barely report on the suffering they are undergoing. Instead, the media mobilizes to carry out a campaign of demonization against the residents of whole cities. Indeed, if Jenin is the "city of the suicide bombers," why shouldn't all its inhabitants be made to suffer? And if Nablus is a "hornets' nest of murderers," why not keep its entire population confined to their homes indefinitely? In Jenin, though, there are 32,000 residents, most of whom don't want to commit suicide, while in Nablus there are 200,000 residents, the vast majority of whom are not murderers. They are hardworking people, some of them second- or third-generation refugees, and all they want is to live a normal life, a life of freedom and national dignity, which Israel has prevented them from doing for more than three decades. They were not born any more bloodthirsty than other people and the atrocities some of them perpetrate did not spring from a vacuum. Even if they have no moral justification, there are explanations aplenty.
For the past two years, the Palestinians have been imprisoned in their places of residence in a manner without precedent in the history of the Israeli occupation. Hunger, humiliation and daily danger to life - far greater than the danger Israelis face - are their lot. When they gather these days in the evening for the meal that breaks the month-long Ramadan fast during the day, they see tanks in the streets and desperate poverty in their homes. These are classic conditions for the growth of terrorism. The fact that the IDF does not dare remain in the cities as a full-fledged occupier, for fear that it will have to assume the burden of tending to the population, does not absolve it of responsibility for the residents' fate. The destruction of the life of the territories is now on all our heads and its result is an increase of terrorism.
It has to be said in all honesty: this attempt has failed. The IDF's occupation interruptus - occupy and pull out - has not brought about the eradication of terrorism and will never do so. Nor will a full return to the cities help. A different method has to be tried, and immediately: the population has to be helped instead of being brutalized, Israel has to get out of their lives as far as possible and give them grounds for hope. They are entitled to that, as we are entitled to a different form of struggle against terrorism, one that will reduce its motivation, instead of increasing it, and will again make terrorism's perpetrators a shunned minority in the Palestinian society, as was once the case, and not so long ago.
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