‘Settling the score’ with terrorists won’t prevent subsequent attacks

The continuing cycle of violence against Israeli civilians will not disappear until Israel’s political leaders are ready to take responsibility for each and every Jewish life, and to defend each one as if it were the entire nation. Harsh actions should be taken to deter future attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Israeli soldiers during his visit at the Northern Command base in Tzfat on Dec. 11, 2018. Photo by Basel Awidat/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Israeli soldiers during his visit at the Northern Command base in Tzfat on Dec. 11, 2018. Photo by Basel Awidat/Flash90.
Alex Traiman
Alex Traiman is the CEO and Jerusalem Bureau Chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate).

On the last night of Hanukkah, a Palestinian terrorist wounded seven in a drive-by shooting at a bus stop outside the large Jewish community in Ofra, Samaria. Injured in the attack were Shira Ish-Ran, a 21-year-old and 30-week pregnant woman, and her husband, Amichai, both of whom suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

On Monday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the actions of the “horrible terrorists” at the weekly Likud Party faction meeting in the Knesset.

Wedding photo of Amichai and Shira Ish-Ran, married earlier this year. Both were injured in a drive-by shooting by a Palestinian terrorists at a bus stop outside of the Jewish community of Ofra on Dec. 9, 2018. Photo courtesy of the family.

“It’s monstrous,” said Netanyahu. “Security forces are pursuing … They’ll capture them. We’ll bring them to justice and settle the score.”

But Israelis are not interested in bringing individual terrorists to justice. And they most certainly are not interested in a pattern of suffering deadly terrorist attacks, only then to capture the terrorist in a manhunt and then “settle the score.”

Israelis are interested in a policy of deterrence that prevents these growing number of attacks from happening in the first place.

Recent polls have shown that Israeli support for Netanyahu remains at all-time highs—for his numerous accomplishments in building and strengthening the economy and the diplomatic channels of the Jewish state, as well as for the lack of a suitable successor.

Israelis recently backed Netanyahu over his political rivals to the right, regarding the de-escalation of hostilities with Hamas in Gaza, after the rogue terror organization fired more than 450 rockets at Israeli population centers, including Ashkelon and Beersheva, sending hundreds of thousands of Israelis ducking for cover.

Yet a policy of de-escalation is not necessarily a policy of security for Israel’s citizens.

Within Israel, and particularly in Judea and Samaria, there is a steady stream of radical violence against Israeli citizens. In 2018, there have been nine deadly incidents, not including this week’s shooting. Each of the incidents has killed parents of young children. Each of the incidents tears at the heart of the Jewish people.

The shootings, stabbings, car-rammings, as well as the rockets from Gaza and Lebanon, are not part of some lone-wolf phenomenon that cannot be defended, deterred or fully eradicated. Rather, they are part of an anti-Semitic campaign to eradicate Jewish life and destabilize the State of Israel.

The willingness of the current government to allow even a limited number of civilian deaths—as long as they aren’t piling up in mass-casualty events or too quickly one after the other—is disturbing.

Harsh statements of condemnation and assertions that the murderers will be captured do nothing to deter the next murderer from carrying out an attack. Immediately following the Barkan Industrial Park shooting last month that left two young parents dead, the prime minister assured that “the security forces are in pursuit of the assailant. I am certain that they will apprehend him, and we will deal with him to the fullest extent of the law.” The shooter was caught and killed two months later [exactly one day after the original version of this piece was published].

Chaim and Liora Silberstein, the parents of Shira Yael Ish-Ran, who now have three members of their family in the hospital, spoke with clarity about the need to dramatically improve the security situation.

“We want to send a clear message to the government that it’s unthinkable that sweet innocent children are shot at,” said Liora Silberstein. “We cannot accept such a reality.”

Chaim Silberstein, while expressing his great appreciation for “the work of the IDF, Shin Bet and everyone else in the area,” stated that the Israel Defense Forces have been prevented by the political establishment from “re-establishing deterrence … so that terrorists and degenerates will think twice—or 10 times—before carrying out such acts.”

To accomplish that type of deterrence, harsh steps must be taken. Roadside shootings and car-rammings represent an abuse of the roads that Israeli taxes have paid to build and maintain. When Palestinian terrorists abuse these roads to injure or kill Israelis, their access to these roads should be completely restricted. Immediately increasing roadblocks would send a strong message that acts of terror have repercussions on Palestinians, not just Jews.

In the 25 years since the failed Oslo peace accords were signed, Palestinian terrorists have been taught to target, kill and injure Jews in all facets of their lives—from school textbooks to television, to city squares and soccer fields that have been named after martyrs, to ongoing incitement on social media. The generation that grew up watching “Hamas Mickey Mouse” and attending summer camps where they learn to murder Jews is now acting exactly as they have been trained.

The Palestinian Authority, which most of the Western world continues to view as legitimate rulers of the Palestinian people and legitimate peace partners, incites its constituents publicly at every possible opportunity, and literally pays individuals to attack Jews, while providing lifetime stipends to terrorists’ families if the attacker is killed during the act of attempted murder.

The 2018 Palestinian Authority budget earmarks $340 million in payments to terrorists and their families—amounting to 7 percent of its entire budget.

While Israel recently passed a law to withhold payments it makes each month to the P.A. as part of an Oslo-generated tax-collection arrangement, that law has yet to be implemented.  Many of the law’s proponents are afraid that the government will find a means to prevent the law’s execution, out of fears that restricting funds could lead to the collapse of the P.A., together with pressure from the international community to restart the payments.

Yet the continuing cycle of violence against Israeli civilians will not disappear until Israel’s political leaders are ready to take responsibility for each and every Jewish life, and to defend each one as if it were the entire nation. Israel’s government and its security forces must take whatever steps are necessary to prevent the death of the next young parent going about his or her life at work, a bus stop, crosswalk or supermarket.

If the current leadership, including Israel’s prime minister are not willing to take such steps, the Israelis who increasingly find themselves under attack, may task a new set of leaders with the challenge of deterring terrorists and preventing these heinous acts once and for all.

Alex Traiman is managing director and Jerusalem Bureau Chief of Jewish News Syndicate.

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