Netanyahu Ahead of Trump Phone Call: I Am Willing to Give Palestinians a 'State-minus'

Only the IDF Can Get Israel to Recognize 'Jewish Terrorism'

In true democracies, the army isn't an educational body, and certainly isn't an organization that defines cultural or political borders; in Israel, the army acquired a unique status, and now it cannot renounce its responsibility.

The Ephraim region lieutenant commander, Lt. Col. Tzur Harpaz, is no mere senior officer. He is a lawmaker. The stone hurled at him by Jewish terrorists did no more than slightly crack the windows of the Knesset, but the babbling outcry of ministers and MKs, and the fact that they even debated the definition of Jewish terror, is yet more proof that any significant legislative changes, whether dealing with the state budget, the marginalization of women, terror, etc., must first make it through the IDF filter before it becomes a legitimate part of Israeli discourse.

If the Israel Defense Forces was once viewed as a melting pot, merging impure "human material" into authentic Israelis, today the IDF serves, among other things, as a cultural censor, in charge of creating a unified language, basic paradigms of political thought, and the basic borders of legitimate and illegitimate civilian behavior. The debate in the government and Knesset whether the Jewish stone is actually terror, exemplifies the paradox wherewith the army, as the victim of terror, which should have been able to act strongly and decisively against these terrorists now supposedly needs changes in the law in order to protect itself.

Indeed, in support of the IDF, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to extend the use of removal decrees and administrative arrests, grant soldiers the authority to arrest terrorists and the military courts authority to try them. That's where he stopped with a screeching of the tires. There is no Jewish terror, claimed Netanyahu.

The army doesn't really need new legislation in order to act against Jewish terror, nor does it need to redefine the term in order to arrest a citizen, Jew or Arab, in the territories. But the IDF is the only force capable of converting halfhearted condemnations and empty slogans into enforceable action. For as long as the terrorists acted against civilian targets, Jewish or Arab, by intimidating Peace Now activists, setting mosques on fire, uprooting olive trees or threatening peace activists, they still were within the consensus set by the right and the IDF, whether by omission or commission.

Thus the terrorists continued to act with protection. At worst, they would be considered petty criminals or overzealous patriots but not a threat to national security.

According to this definition, even wounding a senior officer with a stone, or breaking into an army base, is at most a criminal act, but not terror. Indeed, even the governmental debate - if the terrorists are actually terrorists - should be percieved as no less than amazing, because even the paltry results of such a debate may shatter the borders of the consensus, break the accepted rules and put an end to the age-old tradition of eye rolling. That consensus would never be challenged by another uprooted tree or wounded citizen. But an attack against an army officer? That's a completely different matter.

The IDF has, so far, been completely ineffective in the struggle to change existing public conceptions of Jewish terror. This may change the next time the terrorists clash with the army. And yet, we're not discussing the definition of terror, but rather the status of the army as lawmaker, capable of setting the public discourse in a more effective way than ordinary citizens in a democratic state.

It's too easy to mock faulted democracies such as Egypt or Turkey, where citizens are tried for insulting the army. In such countries one doesn't even have to throw stones at officers in order to be locked away for years. But in true democracies, the army isn't raised from the people, and the civilian public is the sovereign, holy party that is untouchable.

In true democracies, the army isn't an educational body, and certainly isn't an organization that defines cultural or political borders. In Israel, the army acquired a unique status, and now it cannot renounce its responsibility.

Only the IDF, as a chief arbiter of the public forum, can now alter the definition of terror, before the whole state of Israel falls victim to a "price tag" operation.

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