OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Why the new Palestinian rockets matter

They can cause a lot more harm than a rifle or knife.

A Palestinian in Gaza holds a rocket launcher. Photo by Ahmad Khateib/Flash90.
A Palestinian in Gaza holds a rocket launcher. Photo by Ahmad Khateib/Flash90.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

The first time that Arab terrorists launched a rocket from Palestinian Authority territory, it was big news. This week, it happened for the fifth time—and hardly anybody seems to have noticed. But the threat, as well as the implications, is extremely serious.

This new danger first came to light in early May after Israeli forces eliminated a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander named Tariq Muhammad Ezzedine. An Israeli Army spokesman said Ezzedine had been “bringing improvised rockets that will be launched from the West Bank into Israel to harm civilians.” The Jerusalem Post noted that “rockets have never been fired from the West Bank into Israel.”

Then, on May 24, Israel Hayom reported the discovery of “a homemade rocket launcher” in the Palestinian Arab town of Kafr Nazlat “with which Palestinians allegedly tried to fire rockets at the Jewish community of Shaked.” The terrorists succeeded in launching at least one rocket, which footage on social media showed exploding in midair before reaching its target.

Hamas terrorists posted footage of several additional rocket firings in that region in the weeks to follow.

On July 9, a rocket fired from P.A. territory struck the Israeli town of Ram-On. It could have hit a home, a bus or a kindergarten. It’s just sheer good fortune that it didn’t kill or maim anybody.

This week—on Aug. 15—terrorists in Jenin bragged on social media that they were preparing to fire a rocket at the nearby Jewish town of Shaked. Once again, the Israelis got lucky; the rocket malfunctioned and exploded prematurely.

What can we learn from these latest developments?

First, the recent unconfirmed reports that the P.A. security forces have detained a few terrorists in Jenin should not be taken seriously. Terrorists are continuing to operate freely in Jenin and elsewhere, right under the nose of the authority, even though the P.A.’s American-trained and American-armed security force is one of the largest per-capita security forces in the world.

Second, the rocket-shooters proudly boast that they are from the Al-Ayyash division of Hamas. To this day, the P.A. has not even outlawed Hamas—much less taken meaningful action against it. On the contrary, the P.A. recently held unity talks with Hamas in Egypt. In flagrant violation of the Oslo accords, the P.A. continues to treat Hamas as its brothers, not its enemies.

Third, the development of rocket launchers in Judea and Samaria has important implications for the debate over whether Israel could survive the creation of a Palestinian state.

Note that the town of Ram-On, where that rocket recently struck, is not a “West Bank settlement.” It’s located within Israel’s old pre-1967 armistice lines. The rocket was fired from P.A.-controlled Jenin, across the border into Israel.

Terrorists firing rockets from P.A. territory are much harder to catch than those who use guns or knives. That’s because snipers and stabbers need to get close to their targets. Rocket-shooters, by contrast, can operate from much greater distances. They can pick up their launchers and disappear into the back alleys of Jenin or other P.A. cities long before Israeli soldiers arrive.

And, of course, rockets can cause a lot more harm than a rifle or knife. A well-aimed rocket can destroy a moving vehicle or an entire classroom. Imagine every Israeli mother having to live with that danger when she sends her child off to school each morning.

If a sovereign Palestinian state is ever established in any part of Judea and Samaria, the borders of “Palestine” will put rocket-shooters within striking distance of the heart of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa—and, of course, every plane taking off or landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Today, Israeli forces enter P.A. territory when necessary to pursue terrorists. But if Israeli forces were to cross an international border—the border of the State of Palestine—to search for rocket-launchers, it could trigger international sanctions or even a full-scale war.

Until now, discussions about the feasibility of a Palestinian state have largely focused on hypothetical dangers. That’s all changing. The introduction of rockets into the arsenal of P.A.-based terrorists, and the refusal of the P.A. to act against them, poses a grave danger to Israel’s survival.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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