Palestinian terrorism, both among Israeli Arabs and from the West Bank Palestinians, derives to a large extent from the erosion of deterrence since the Second Intifada. A new generation of Palestinians has arisen that did not experience for themselves what happens when the Jews understand the gravity of the danger that faces them and decide to use force in order to break the will of Palestinian society to dispatch and support murderers.
The terrorist who tried to enter the community of Tekoa and carry out an attack—just like the murders in Beersheva, Hadera, Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv; the rioters in Lod and Akko; the thugs on the roads of the Negev; and the hooligans at Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk are young people who didn’t experience “Operation Defensive Shield,” which extinguished the Second Intifada, and the forceful repression of the violent rampage by Arab Israelis at the time.
A section of Arab society is not familiar with the concept whereby cultured people “live and let live.” What they are familiar with is that if they cease to fear the state and the majority, they derive a sick satisfaction from the ability to impose fear and terror.
These factors can be repressed and deterred only through forceful means. “Searing of consciousness,” as former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’aon put it at the time of the Second Intifada, was a concept that at the time was received with typical hypocritical criticism by the talking heads in the studios and the press. But thanks to that searing of consciousness, for close to two decades any major outbreak of violence in the territories was prevented and there was coordination with the Palestinian security apparatuses.
Israel’s firm response to the October 2000 mass riots by Arab citizens in support of the war of terror launched against the state prevented wider and more organized violence. In addition to the hunt for and elimination of the terrorists themselves, what is now required is an escalation and wider operations to hit the environment that supports terrorism. The elimination of Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Salah Arouri and their gangs is desirable at the appropriate operational opportunity, but targeted killings do not in themselves ensure strategic gains.
The change must be perceptual: Hamas in Gaza cannot be renumerated with protection money while it instigates terrorism from the West Bank, Lebanon and the Israeli Arab community. The town of Jenin cannot receive economic benefits—entry permits for Israeli Arabs—when it dispatches terrorists from its midst and operates as an extraterritorial jurisdiction run by terrorists. The main thing is to prevent anarchy from leaking into Israel.
A message must be sent that will resonate among young Arabs in Israel and cut short a trend that is gathering pace in front of our very eyes. Alongside the barbarity of the pogroms in Acre and Lod, which have received patriotic legitimization from the Arab leadership in Israel, Arab youngsters have now begun to impose fear on Jews for their perverse pleasure and to attack representatives of the state, its infrastructure, its institutions, and its symbols. They do this while they document their rampages because they feel immune from the law. They behave in this way because on social networks a large part of the Arab community sees them as heroes and their deeds as emotional compensation for their sense of inferiority.
If the Israeli law enforcement system fails to punish and humiliate these hooligans, and if it does not show the Arab community the grave and ongoing damage that will be caused to them for many years, the State of Israel will find itself facing an internal threat of dimensions that will require it to employ far more serious means against far greater numbers.
Video posted by the hooligans themselves shows how they broke into Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk, directed their gutter language at its residents, and showed open contempt for an armed security guard. The videos document, for example, how they provoked the police by driving wildly in front of a patrol vehicle, rode their horses into a café, and other such provocations. They dare to behave in so barbaric a manner because they are aware of the pitiful state of Israeli law enforcement, from the police through to the state prosecutor’s office and the judges themselves.
The police take pride in large operations, but they have abandoned public spaces. At the same time, the state prosecutor’s office violates its role by its agreement to inexplicable plea bargains and judges hand out ridiculously light sentences. It begins with the kind of violent rampages on Israel’s roads that left the town of Arad isolated and continue with pogroms in mixed towns, and if it is not put down in a harsh manner, it will end with the loss of security for Jews in their lands and attempts to block IDF forces on their way to the front at times of war.
Dan Schueftan is the director of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.