By his own confession, implicating himself in two murders and 10 other acts of terrorism, Yaakov (Jack) Teitel should be regarded as one of the most dangerous terrorists ever to operate in Israel and the territories. Teitel is the Jewish counterpart of "The Engineer," Yahya Ayyash - Hamas' expert bomb maker - with one fundamental difference: Ayyash's targets were all Jews, whereas Teitel operated against everyone, Israelis and Palestinians, homosexuals and policemen. He was active for a dozen long years before his capture by the Shin Bet security service and the police, who thwarted his plans for carrying out further acts of terrorism.
The capture and subsequent confession mark a success for the security services, but they are clouded by the protracted failure to identify Teitel as the man responsible for a series of actions that blur the border between criminality and security violations. Teitel found and exploited worrying loopholes in Israel's defensive wall against weapons smuggling. On a British airline he brought in a dismantled pistol, and in a shipping container he imported an arms stockpile sufficient to equip an entire commando squad.
Even when he aroused suspicions and was arrested, he took advantage of Israeli society's tendency to favor suspects' rights - as long as they are not Palestinians - over society's obligation to defend itself against its enemies. In the absence of sufficient evidence for an indictment, Teitel was not only released and thereby allowed to carry out further terror attacks, he was given a license to bear arms. So as not to leave behind incriminating evidence, he did not use that licensed weapon in his attacks - but still, the structural flaw exposed in the system cries out to be fixed.
Teitel is different from the Jewish terrorists who preceded him in that he did not distinguish between his Palestinian targets and the Israelis whose political ideas he opposed, such as Prof. Zeev Sternhell. He did not distinguish between his victims in the gay community and the police assigned to protect them. His long period of activity indicates that Teitel was not necessarily influenced by religious figures' invective against those they termed "Sodomites." More than being subject to their influence, he appears to have wanted to exert influence by his deeds and the posters he put up.
Terrorism of Teitel's kind reflects a boundless hatred of entire populations. It will take generations to eradicate, but there are already lessons to be drawn from this case. Intelligence gathering and law enforcement against extremist elements in the settlements must be stepped up, and attacks on Palestinians must be more thoroughly investigated.
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