Maybe the third intifada has begun, as some have said. Maybe the first one never ended, as others have said. Maybe this current upswing in terrorist attacks isn’t an intifada at all, as some others have said.
Whatever you want to call it, everyone has the same question: How do we stop it?
Harsh reprisals, right? It makes everyone feel so much better. It gives us all a sense of justice to see our army striking at those who wish us harm. And if there are some Arab civilians that get caught in the crossfire, that’s okay. We can chalk that up to collateral damage. Either that, or (more often than not) they were being used as human shields. Either way, our conscience is clear.
The problem is that it’s like taking a painkiller for a dehydration headache; it alleviates the immediate symptoms without addressing the root cause, thereby allowing the actual problem to get worse without realizing it.
Okay, so what about home demolitions? Truth is, I never understood that one. I doubt that has ever deterred a single potential terrorist. “Gee, I sure hate the Zionists, but if I kill a bunch of them — and probably myself in the process — they might destroy my house…which I can’t live in anyway since I’ll be dead or in jail.” Again, I think this is a move that is more for the benefit of the Israeli collective need for justice. In that respect it works, but it’s not going to put an end to all this violence.
Okay, so maybe we enact tougher, even draconian, strictures against Arab towns? That works for a while. At least until international pressure (as well as our own exhaustion) makes us ease off once again. And since the Arabs in those towns know it, all they need is the patience to wait us out.
So what do we do? What can we do? How can we stop these attacks? More importantly, how can we make sure they don’t happen again?
The answer to this very tough question, which has been the source of debate between some of the smartest international thinkers of all time, was given almost a century ago.
In 1923, Zev Jabotinsky wrote an essay entitled “The Iron Wall; We and the Arabs.” The main idea of the essay is that we need to put up a barrier of protection (an “iron wall”) in the form of a strong military in order to allow our Jewish society to flourish without interference from the restless locals. Toward the end he posits the following:
…All this does not mean that any kind of agreement is impossible, only a voluntary agreement is impossible. As long as there is a spark of hope that they can get rid of us, they will not sell these hopes, not for any kind of sweet words or tasty morsels, because they are not a rabble but a nation, perhaps somewhat tattered, but still living. A living people makes such enormous concessions on such fateful questions only when there is no hope left. Only when not a single breach is visible in the iron wall, only then do extreme groups lose their sway, and influence transfers to moderate groups. Only then would these moderate groups come to us with proposals for mutual concessions. And only then will moderates offer suggestions for compromise on practical questions like a guarantee against expulsion, or equality and national autonomy.
I believe that these words are still true. As long as the Arabs, both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, still have any hope of expelling us from areas they claim as their own, they will continue to attack us, or encourage those that would.
So, if it’s hope that allows them to attack us, I believe we need to remove that hope. We need to unequivocally and sternly impose Israeli law in “disputed” areas.
We need to enforce Israeli law in places that, although have been annexed, remain largely ignored by Israeli security officers and policymakers. Specifically, places like the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City, where some people have never paid property taxes due to the fact that nobody will dare collect them. Like Silwan, where a police officer actually told me that I could park my car anywhere I wanted in that neighborhood, since no cop would ever go in there to write tickets. Like anywhere that has become, over the years, a police-free zone because it has become too much of a political hot potato to send them in. That all must stop. These places are as much a part of Israel as Florentin in Tel Aviv or Ahuza in Haifa, and need to be treated as such. If we don’t treat them like they’re ours, why shouldn’t the Arabs treat them like they’re theirs?
Most of all, this needs to take place on the Temple Mount. I don’t know what Moshe Dayan was thinking when he relinquished Israeli authority there, and I don’t care at this point; what’s done is done. But the status quo cannot be maintained. As a funny show once put it, we must change the status quo because the status is not…quo. It is the only place I know of in all of Israel in which the Law of the Protection of Holy Sites is roundly ignored. Let me reiterate that: The holiest place in the world for Jews, as well as narrowly rounding out the top three for Islam, is not treated like a holy site. If that sounds absurd to you, don’t worry; that just means you’re sane. So — just for the sake of simple reason and logic — Israeli sovereignty must be enforced there. In addition to the logical, moral, religious, and legal reason for Israel to display authority there, there is another ancillary benefit. If we do this, every potential terrorist will know that they will never wrest control of it from us. As Zev Jabotinsky suggested, they will lose hope and stop attacking us.
(Aside: please note that I am not saying that we need to expel Muslims from the site. Not at all. It should be open to everyone — or closed to everyone — without any threat of violence against any ethnicity or religion.)
In addition to everything I’ve suggested so far, I think that we need to begin the annexation of Judea and Samaria, and fast. Area C should be annexed immediately. Arabs comprise less than 5% of the population there, so there’s absolutely no demographic issue. By annexing it, we would stop all the inaccurate claims of occupation and apartheid. But most importantly, it will take away incentive for terrorist attacks. As long as it is dangled in front of the Palestinian Authority as a possible negotiation chit, they will (almost justifiably) fight us for it. But if we categorically deny them any chance of ever getting that territory, it will settle in as reality for them, and they will begrudgingly join us in the reality that it is our land.
If the annexation of Area C proves successful, we can then move on to Area B from a position of power. Instead of the Oslo tactic of giving them what they want and then asking them to treat us nicely in return, we can tell them that we are prepared to discuss autonomy in return for a cessation of hostilities. If they decline, we annex Area B and make the same offer to them regarding Area A. (As to what we would do if we did annex Area B and/or A in regards to the demographic issue, that’s a discussion for another article.)
Now here’s the rub: if we successfully carry out all of these ideas I’ve put forward, matters will certainly get worse before they get better. The initial reaction to any of these actions would most definitely be armed resistance. But we can weather that. We can make it through whatever is thrown at us. We just need the strength and fortitude to see it through.
So that’s it. Treat all of Israel like it’s Israel, deal with the inevitable but temporary violent blowback, and then we will begin to see a true and lasting calm with our Arab neighbors that will eventually lead to a real peace.
As the esteemed Menachem Begin put it: “War is avoidable, but peace is inevitable.”