Israel 2015: Where the Army Urges Moderation and the Politicians Are Brutal

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An IDF tank outside Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

In March 1975 I was invited to a political event where then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was speaking. At the time, Fatah terrorists had burst into the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv taken hostages.

Rabin was aggrieved over the attack but he was certain of the outcome, insisting that the terrorists would not achieve their goal. “No Palestinian is willing to die in battle. We are facing people who want to fight us aggressively. But they are not prepared to give their lives for the cause.”

That is what the security establishment thought at the time about Palestinian willingness to pay the price to attain a real achievement.

Since then the assessment has changed, and some of Palestinians are willing to kill themselves to achieve their goal.

The knifings and car-rammings that Palestinians are carrying out are not orchestrated by any organization. I daresay that their actions are in opposition to the position of the ruling establishment in the West Bank. Young people and adults choose to attack, risking their lives, knowing that the State of Israel will stop at nothing to halt this terror by individuals.

The Netanyahu government, which is controlled by the settlers and the right wing, gives the right of veto to Bezalel Smotrich and Oren Hazan; they have the power to decide its fate. They use this power to push the government into ever more aggressive stands, out of the nave faith that “whatever is not decided by force will be decided by even more force.”

On the other side are elements, who almost by their very definition would be expected to prod any government toward solutions based on force – the Shin Bet security service and the leadership of the Israel Defense Forces. These people know the field better than ministers Yisrael Katz and Naftali Bennett. And so they are trying to steer the government to adopt reasonable and logical positions.

The members of this right-wing government take the ideological and faith-based stance that terror stems only from the hatred of Jews wherever they are. In contrast, the army and the Shin Bet are aware of the serious distress of individual Palestinians. They are aware of the extent of unemployment and the scope of hopelessness and believe that in the long run Israel must take more level-headed and tangible steps to address these problems. But the politicians answer them heroically: Terror must be stamped out. The motives of the knife-wielders should not be taken into consideration. They must only be deterred or eliminated before they carry out their evil plans.

That is not enough for Yisrael Katz. He wants to impose a closure on any area from which an attacker emerges, and to take away the work permits of all the residents of that area. He does not stop for a moment to think that he is pushing many good Palestinians, who want to work in Israel and maintain reasonable neighborly relations with it, into the circle of terror.

He has no leisure time to reflect upon this possibility as long as Israel Harel and his friends whisper to him that this is the time to annex Gush Etzion to Israel to deter terror — as if the knife-wielders check Israel’s annexation policy daily.

The top brass of the IDF watch the politicians and are astonished and critical. But in coalition-run Israel, Uri Ariel, Smotrich and Katz have more influence on the political leadership than the army’s leaders do. Even at a time when knifings are rampant the truth must not be hidden. The West Bank is occupied territory in the eyes of the whole world. In the absence of a diplomatic initiative, or any move at all that recognizes the reality of our lives with the Palestinians, the government’s policies will lead to endless attacks.

We live in a strange world. The army is becoming more humane and realistic and the politicians are becoming more forceful and brutal. An upside-down world – Israel 2015.

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