It's Time for Israel to Step Up Its Fight Against Terrorism

Israel Harel
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Israeli security forces alongside a blindfolded Zakaria Zubeidi and Mohammed Aradeh
Israel Harel

After the terrorists’ escape from prison, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened a meeting of the security chiefs. At the end of it, the unequivocal instruction that went out to the security forces was “not to heat things up” in the course of the search for the fugitives.

In the state’s early years, Israel adopted the method of the preemptive counterstrike. Over time, the successes of this strategy, the ultimate example being the crushing victory in the Six-Day War, came to trouble influential figures in the military and society. The trend toward self-flagellation (“Forgive us for winning”) spawned a revolution in the country’s doctrine of war. Rather than keep up the preemptive counterstrikes and not allow the enemy to raise its head, arm itself, and launch operations; Israel decided to let its enemies treat us the way we once treated them.

Hamas, which launches daily arson attacks, offers the perfect illustration of the effects of this new way of thinking, which is the product of the brilliant Jewish-Israeli mind gone wacko. In order “not to heat things up,” we’ve let Hamas make life hell for Israelis in the south. The army, too, as we saw in the case of Barel Hadaria Shmueli, has also become a doormat – and not for the first time. Meanwhile, we’ve allowed Hezbollah to stockpile hundreds of thousands of rockets and create a balance of terror against us. It now holds the reins, psychologically and operationally. “We are prepared for any scenario” is the generic Israeli response. “We’ll hit them back 10 times harder.” Come on. Does anyone really think that, like them, we are capable of bombarding and killing thousands of civilians and wounding tens of thousands more?

Seeing how the “don’t heat things up” doctrine was so successful at defeating the terrorist organizations, it was also applied inside the prisons. In return for quiet (as in the “exploiting the success” doctrine), murderers were allowed to determine their own rights and dictate what authority the jailers have toward them. And now that this “quiet” has blown up in our faces, the order given to the security forces, this time by a government that purports to be a “government of change,” is to keep doing the same old thing. Like the governments that came before it (especially those headed by Benjamin Netanyahu), the Bennett government is running from the truth: Quiet is not met with quiet, particularly when the enemy (rightly) feels that it has the upper hand. Quiet is crap. And this crap is now being spattered on all of us, not just on those who turned it into Israel’s security doctrine.

The “don’t heat things up” concept has become Israel’s official war doctrine in the north, in Judea and Samaria, and in the Gaza Strip, and we’ve seen the same doctrine in action with regard to rioters in Israeli cities. While the terrorists initiate and carry out offensive actions, the Israel Defense Forces, police, and prison service “prepare for any scenario.” The same goes for the Shin Bet, too, the biggest screw-up of late. Just as it failed to foresee last year’s riots, it failed to keep tabs on what is happening among the imprisoned terrorists.

The real (as opposed to merely rhetorical) answer “to any scenario” lies in turning this concept inside out: Before the enemy puts its scenarios into action, Israel preemptively disrupts them. That is how it can return to being the one who initiates and pursues and surprises, while compelling the enemy to be ready “for any scenario.” In order to extinguish the current fire and future fires, we have to heat things up. For this purpose, we must now – before we miss the moment when the disaster of the containment policy is clear for all to see – launch an action similar to Operation Defensive Shield. And just as we did in that operation in 2002, we must throw the enemy off balance for years to come. And without too much more effort – if we only believe that it is possible, even once and for all.

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