Editorial |

No to Israel's Cruel Home Demolitions

Haaretz Editorial
Umm al-Fahm, this week.
Umm al-Fahm, this week.Credit: Fadi Amun
Haaretz Editorial

For the second time in less than a week, Israeli citizens have perpetrated a terror attack inside the Green Line, within Israel proper. In the first attack, last Tuesday in Be’er Sheva, an Israeli Bedouin man from the town of Hura embarked on a killing spree during which he fatally ran over a bicyclist with his car and stabbed three other people to death. In the second attack, in Hadera Sunday, two Arab Israeli citizens from Umm al-Fahm shot and killed two Border Police officers – Yezen Falah and Shirel Abukarat.

The Islamic State organization claimed responsibility for the latest attack on its Telegram page. One of the assailants was accused in 2016 of attempting to join the Islamic State. The perpetrator of the Be’er Sheva attack, a former security prisoner, was also known to the defense establishment as a supporter of the organization.

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Israel has long and bitter experience with terror within its borders. But usually the assailants do not have Israeli citizenship. This fact makes the battle against terror more difficult. The attacks come at a time when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is always ready to erupt anew – in the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip and/or inside Israel, as happened during Operation Guardian of the Walls last May – all the more so a few days before the start of the month of Ramadan.

Utmost caution must be taken now. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday, “The second terrorist attack inside Israel by Islamic State supporters requires the security forces to adjust quickly to the new threat,” and he called on Israelis “to continue being alert.” That call is necessary, but it is also important to stress that the defense establishment’s test lies in being able to fight terror without carrying out actions that will themselves lead to an escalation in other arenas, or harm innocent people. For that reason Bennett, the cabinet and the defense establishment must shut their ears to the voices demanding revenge and the calls for collective punishment coming from the opposition.

One such call is the automatic demand to demolish the homes of the perpetrators, even though they are Israeli citizens, as Israel does in the case of Palestinians from the territories. This is a cruel tactic that punishes family members despite the fact that they were not involved in the attack. Home demolition is not a legitimate means of punishment; moreover, its effectiveness in deterring potential terrorists is also in doubt.

This is also a time of testing for the government, which is composed of groups from across the entire political spectrum, including an Arab party. The pressure from the opposition on Bennett and his partners in the government’s right wing to demonstrate their “right-wing credentials” will be tremendous. It could lead to a wider escalation and hurt innocent people.

We can assume that there will also be an attempt to undermine the unprecedented partnership between Jews and Arabs. Bennett and his partners in the government must not let themselves be dragged into following this destructive mood. They must maintain restraint on all fronts.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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