Opinion |

A Distorted Zionist Response

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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The illegal Israeli outpost of Avigayil in the West Bank.
The illegal Israeli outpost of Avigayil in the West Bank.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

The government’s response, so far at least, has been reserved in the face of 11 Israeli deaths in terrorist attacks last month. There has been no broad military operation akin to Guardian of the Walls aimed at Gaza or Jenin. The Shin Bet has engaged in “soul searching,” and the cabinet has convened on a few occasions, but the Muslim holy month of Ramadan has become an effective brake on the kind of vengeful rampage that in the past led to showcase operations that achieved nothing. Nor has anyone demanded the erection of new outposts, neighborhoods or towns to show “an appropriate Zionist response” to the murders.

One can easily imagine what would have happened if these attacks had taken place in the territories. For each person murdered, an illegal outpost would have been established – 10 to be exact because the one Arab victim, Amir Khoury, who saved lives, would not have merited such a response. Thousands of settlers, carrying their children and belongings (the settlers are always alert and ready to pounce and stake pegs on one of the holy hills whenever there is a terrorist attack) would have packed the roads on their way to a settlement celebration. Their leaders and emissaries would have immediately submitted demands to whitewash and regularize the illegal outposts. The army would have acted to block them and then protect the trespassers until the government decided what to do. The settlers know full well how to respond to terrorist attacks.

One can also imagine the government’s response had the Be’er Sheva, Hadera or Bnei Brak municipalities demanded that it enlarge their municipal boundaries or approve a budget to cover the construction of a school or street named after the victims. None of those municipalities would have dared to move a tractor before the necessary authorizations and budgets came through.

But it isn’t just the technical, legal and budgetary obstacles that stop these towns from carrying out an “appropriate Zionist response.” Here we see the enormous gap between the territory that is defined as the State of Israel and the settler latifundia, and it doesn’t just come down to the differing attitudes to the rule of law on the different sides of the Green Line.

As the settlers see it, terrorist attacks against Jews result from the weakness of the government. The solution is expansion of settlements and construction of new outposts. This, they believe, is the only way Israel can deter and repress Palestinian national aspirations and annul the impact of violent resistance. The problem is that these solutions are only suitable for the sovereign state the settlers have created for themselves over the Green Line. Bnei Brak, Hadera and Be’er Sheva are in a different country that is subject to different laws and a different security policy.

The difference between these two countries was expressed by Supreme Court Justice Alex Stein in a ruling last month in which he opined that “a civilian Jewish presence constitutes part of the Israel Defense Forces’ defense policy, with the reason being that the presence of citizens of the state makes a significant contribution to the security situation in that area and makes it easier for the army to fulfill its duty.”

The logic of this bizarre statement is that terrorist attacks against settlers are tantamount to a direct attack on the IDF. The residents of Bnei Brak, Hadera and Be’er Sheva do not share this special status. They can only live in fear and mourn their dead.

If we were to accept Stein’s view, then the IDF and the Shin Bet – and not just the messianic right – should be demanding as part of their security doctrine the establishment of more and more settlements in response to the recent attacks in Israel. But the IDF and Shin Bet realized long ago that settlements and outposts are a burden and a threat to Israel security. They don’t prevent terrorist attacks. On the contrary, there is a clear and immediate connection between settlements and terrorist attacks in Israel and the territories. Making them as part of Israel’s security doctrine makes Israel’s citizens hostages to the rampage of the settlers.

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