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OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

The lesson of Jenin

It is time for the Palestinians to take responsibility, and for the International community to demand accountability.

Israeli soldiers in Jenin as part of a counter-terrorism operation, July 3, 2023. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.
Israeli soldiers in Jenin as part of a counter-terrorism operation, July 3, 2023. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.
Hillel Newman
Hillel Newman
Hillel Newman is the former Israeli ambassador to Uzbekistan and Israeli consul-general to the Pacific southwest.

Since the beginning of 2023, 28 Israeli citizens have been brutally murdered in Palestinian terrorist attacks. More than 270 Israeli citizens have been injured. The various methods used for attacking Israeli civilians included car rammings, drive-by shootings, rockets and stabbings. The common denominator is that they targeted uninvolved Israeli civilians, using innocent Palestinians as human shields, constituting a double war crime.

In this context, there was a sharp increase in the attacks emerging from Judea and Samaria and from Jenin in particular. The district of Jenin was responsible for more terror attacks than any other district in the West Bank.

On May 26, two rockets were launched from Jenin. The rockets fell short and exploded within Palestinian Authority-controlled territory. The launches reflect the ongoing effort by terrorist organizations operating in northern Samaria and Jenin to upgrade their capability to attack Israelis.

On June 19, an Israel Defense Forces and Border Patrol operation to arrest terrorists in Jenin was met with heavy fire, including a large number of explosive devices which were placed underground ahead of time. This was further proof that the district known as the Jenin refugee camp—housing thousands of residents in a very densely populated area—has become an epicenter for terror activity.

For these reasons, the Israeli government launched a counter-terrorism effort in Jenin earlier this month.

During the brief operation, 12 Palestinian terrorists were killed and a large part of the terror infrastructure in Jenin diminished. There were zero civilian casualties, despite the city being a densely populated area, chosen by the Palestinians terrorists as their home base.

A few points are worthy of stress. First, Israeli forces have no interest in entering P.A.-controlled areas. They do this out of necessity, to prevent the murder of Israeli citizens. It is incumbent upon every country to act in self-defense to prevent the murder of its citizens. If there was no terrorism emanating from the P.A., then there would be no Israeli incursions.

Second, Israel makes a clear distinction between Palestinian terrorists and civilians. Even while the operation was taking place, the entry of Palestinian laborers into Israel continued, and the routine of civil activity throughout Judea and Samaria was maintained.

Third, the current wave of terrorism reflects the weakness of the P.A. The terrorist organizations Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas are taking advantage of the unstable P.A. and its refusal to act against the terrorist entities. These proxy forces are supported by Iran, which does not have the good interests of the Palestinian people or the P.A. at heart.

An additional point relates to the role of the media and some in the international community. While many recognize Israel’s right of self-defense, others do a disservice to regional peace, to Israelis and even to the interests of the Palestinian people. There is no moral equation between the Palestinian terrorist attacks and Israel’s actions of self-defense.

Israel’s actions are not random raids. The blind support extended to the P.A., and knee-jerk opposition to Israeli actions, does not serve truth, justice or even the Palestinian interests. Rabbi Leo Lee, who lost his wife and two daughters in a terrorist attack, wrote an article about the “silent Palestinians” who despise the terrorists and wish for their removal, just as much as the Israelis.

The citizens of Israel do query why the basic right of self-defense, extended to every country in the world, is questioned or denied in relation to Israel.

Those who truly aspire to coexistence in the Middle East should draw conclusions from the Abraham Accords, signed between Israel and four additional Arab states. This normalization proved once again that the obstacle to peace in the Middle East has always been the rejection of Israel and the lack of willingness to come to terms with Israel’s existence as a state, in any borders. Once they were willing, we had normalization.

That is also the key issue with the Palestinians. The problem is not Israel’s recognition of them, but their willingness to come to terms with Israel’s existence. The cry “from the River to the Sea” is not a call for a two-state solution, but for the annihilation of Israel.

The Oslo accords promoted the idea of “territory for peace.” It failed, because Israel, time and time again, relinquished territory, yet received no peace. Due to the endless blind support, pampering and indulgence offered to the Palestinians, they understood that there was no demand for accountability for their actions.

Those aspiring for peace and co-existence between Israel and the Palestinians should encourage Palestinian acceptance of Israel as an entity in the region. They should join Israel in condemning Palestinian incitement, terrorism and P.A. direct and indirect support of violence.

It is time for the Palestinians to take responsibility, and for the International community to demand accountability.

Originally published by the Jewish Journal.

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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