50 Years Later: From a War of Survival to Disgraceful Occupation

How did Israel, a previously moral and lawful country, become a state that is legitimately controlled by nationalist criminal organizations?

Let’s Take a Short Journey Back in Time

The year is 1984. Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres are standing at the head of a newly-established national unity government, with Yitzhak Rabin serving as defense minister. He will serve in this capacity for one and a half terms, during which the three will work together to ensure that no illegal activity, including the establishment of new settlements, takes place in the West Bank. Throughout these six years, and during the two and a half years Rabin served as prime minister, I served as his assistant and supervised the settlement areas. I can therefore safely claim that between 1984 and 1990 and between 1992 and 1995, no settlement was built in the West Bank, and no activity that deviated from the international law took place. During this period, the relationship between the Military Advocate General Corps and the State Attorney’s Office was as harmonious as it can be. Together, the two entities maintained law and order and prevented the establishment of a separate set of rules for Jewish settlers in the conquered territories. The military was fully controlled by the civilian government, even with regard to military operations, and the many attempts to predicate the law of halakha (Jewish religious laws) were nipped in the bud.

Now Let’s Return to the Present

The year is 2017 and the reality has changed significantly. The State of Israel is run according to one set of laws while the settlements lean on another. And this second set of laws is not rooted in compliance with the international laws of occupation, on the contrary, it is a result of a double standard. The moral standards that Israel strives to meet within state borders seem to become irrelevant in the conquered territories. Why? Because of political convenience.

Israel has been ruled by aggressive, nationalistic forces for more than 15 years. The Israeli education system is being destroyed gradually and systematically, as are the cultural and national infrastructures. It has become an immoral state; its merit is questionable, and the Western support we have relied on for years is rapidly dwindling.

What Led to This Steep Decline?

In retrospect, we can spot the early signs of the national moral decline way back in the 1970s, when the Elon Moreh settlement was approved by Minister of Defense Shimon Peres even though it was illegal. But the real seed was planted in 1980, when the Jewish Underground was formed.

Don’t let the name confuse you, the Jewish Underground was not an association of marginalized extremists. It was an established organization run by the leaders of the West Bank settlement movement, and a few representatives from the Golan Heights. The members of the Underground were all affiliated with the Religious Zionist ideology and students of Mercaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva in Jerusalem. They were prominent members of their nationalist community who decided to take the law into their own hands. They planned and carried out numerous violent attacks on the local Palestinian leadership and public. They planted explosives under the cars of three Palestinian mayors, two of whom were critically injured and crippled for life by the explosions. The third was saved by a Border Police officer who neutralized the bomb but lost his eyesight during the dangerous process. They infiltrated the Islamic College in Hebron, shot the place up and threw hand grenades at the students. Three students were killed and 30 injured. They launched M72 LAW rockets, set fire to cars and buses, and planned to conquer the Temple Mount and blow up the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Finally, in 1984, the 29 members of the Jewish Underground were caught in East Jerusalem while planting bombs and explosives under buses that were about to take thousands of innocent Palestinians to work.

15 Convicted Criminals are Set Free

Of the 29 Jewish Underground members, only 15 were convicted and sent to jail, 12 of whom were released within a few years. The remaining three, who were sentenced to life, were also released not long after, in the late 1990s.

Their amnesty can only be described as a disaster; one of the greatest calamities the country has seen. It reflects a moral rift that cannot be mended. People who violated fundamental laws of state and morality, who took the lives of innocent people without hesitation, who saw death and destruction as a means to an end, were set free. But they gained more than freedom, they gained admiration. They were given an opportunity to return to their normative lives, and were warmly welcomed back into the arms of the establishment and society. From then on, they made repeated attempts to diminish the central government, to weaken the Supreme Court, and to undermine the state’s sovereign power.

In Israel of today, many former members of the Underground are prominent members of society. They hold key positions in the media sector, the IDF, and in municipal and national politics. Those who carried out terrorist attacks a mere 30 years ago, enjoy the power of legitimate leadership today.

How did this political takeover come about? How did the Jewish terrorists of the past become the legitimate leaders of the present? By taking control over the three most powerful state arenas: politics, national security and media.

The next installment to this blog will discuss the long-term strategy implemented by the Underground and their followers to gain power, and what we can do to restore the morality of our state.

About the Author
Shimon Sheves was General Director of the Prime Minister's office under the late Yizhak Rabin. He is currently the Founder and Chairman of HolistiCyber, which provides nation-state level cyber security solution.
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