The Israeli army last week carried out an anti-terrorism training exercise. It wasn’t exactly headline news; the army does that sort of thing all the time. It’s part and parcel of being surrounded by enemies who want to kill you.
What caught my eye about this particular exercise, however, was that it consisted of a simulated kidnapping of Israelis by Palestinian Arab terrorists in Judea and Samaria.
The two-day drill practiced “scenarios of complicated kidnappings where troops have to enter Palestinian villages in order to find the civilian hostages,” reported The Jerusalem Post. “During the searches, troops encountered scenarios of violent rioting, something the military knows soldiers face in real events.”
Recalling the kidnap-murders of three Israeli teens in the summer of 2014, Lt. Yossi Eliaz, commander of the Rotem Battalion in the Givati Brigade, said the exercise was necessary because “it’s a scenario that could happen again.”
Let’s think about that for a moment.
The Israeli military authorities think that a terrorist kidnapping of Jews is so likely that they felt they had to take hundreds of soldiers away from their regular duties and devote two entire days, in addition to many other resources, to rehearsing for such an incident.
But how can that be? The entire premise of the Oslo accords, which Israel and the Palestinian Arabs signed in 1993 and are still binding, was that the Palestinian Authority would stamp out the terrorists.
New York Times columnists, Jewish State Department officials and the Peace Now-J Street crowd told us for years that if Israel allowed Palestinian self-rule and the creation of a large, powerful Palestinian police force, then they would fight terrorism.
“They know the terrain,” the Jewish left assured us. “They know where the weapons depots and safe houses and training sites are. They will take on Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”
Israel’s leaders knew it was risky. They knew that once they withdrew their troops from the major Palestinian Arab cities that they would lose access to the military intelligence assets who made it possible to combat the terrorists. And they knew that Israeli troops would only be able to re-enter those areas for a few hours at a time in hot pursuit of specific, individual terrorists.
But Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin decided to take that chance. He withdrew from the 40 percent of Judea and Samaria where 98 percent of the Palestinian Arabs reside. He allowed the Palestinian Authority to develop huge police and security forces that quickly became a de facto army. Israel even gave them 30,000 rifles.
The Palestinian Authority today has the largest per-capita police force in the world. Yet terrorists are so plentiful, and so well-armed, in P.A. territory that the Israeli army has to practice for the likely possibility that those terrorists will soon be kidnapping Israelis.
Not only that, the Israeli exercises were based on the assumption that the hostages will be held “in Palestinian villages” and that the Israeli commandos searching for them will encounter “violent rioting.”
How is that possible? Jewish State Department officials keep telling us that most Palestinian Arabs are moderate and peaceful. The masses supposedly are against terrorism. Yet the Israeli authorities expect that these “moderate” Arabs will serve as hosts for hostage-takers and will carry out murderous mob violence against any Israelis who try to intervene.
I wonder if that might have anything to do with the P.A. using its media and schools to raise an entire generation of young Arabs to hate Jews and glorify anti-Jewish violence.
According to the Oslo agreement, the P.A. security forces are required to disband terrorist groups, seize their weapons, arrest the terrorists and extradite them to Israel for prosecution. They haven’t done any of that.
Yes, the P.A. security forces know the terrain. And yes, they know where the weapons depots and safe houses and training sites are located. They could smash the terrorist groups if they wanted to. They just don’t want to.
As far as the P.A. is concerned, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the rest are their brothers. Occasionally quarrelsome, occasionally rivalrous. But brothers nonetheless. And the Israelis are their enemies, peace agreement or no peace agreement.
The implication dares not be ignored. Today, Israel is carrying out its anti-kidnapping drills in Judea and Samaria. If the Israelis had listened to the advice of the U.S. State Department and J Street—and had withdrawn to the narrow pre-1967 armistice lines—then those kidnapping drills would be taking place in downtown Tel Aviv. And so would the kidnappings.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”