Gideon Israel
Director of the Jerusalem Washington Center

A Necessary Paradigm Shift


It is time for a paradigm shift in Israeli policy toward terror organizations and the Palestinian Authority.  Not because three boys were kidnapped and killed, though it adds to the urgency of it.  The change has been long overdue, and what was necessary was a trigger.  Unfortunately, brutal terrorist attacks in the past have not triggered the necessary paradigm shift.  For some reason, kidnappings touch a different chord in Israeli society.  It seems as if we can deal with the daily missile attacks, deal with the bullets, deal with the suicide bombings, but kidnappings push an emotional button of ‘no mercy’.  Every so often, there are triggers in our own private lives and our national lives which allow for a change of course – triggers which do not occur during our daily routine.  Ecclesiastes expresses this idea very succinctly when he said “ it is better to visit a house of mourning, than a house of party,” since the atmosphere found there and the reality of our mortality will no doubt have a much more lasting effect on each one of us.

What has the government’s paradigm of fighting terrorism been until now?  Reaction.  The Israeli government has allowed terrorist groups to exist both in Judea/Samaria and Gaza.  While the policy of reacting to terrorists also includes arresting terrorists planning attacks, pre-emptive strikes on cells ready to carry out attacks and administrative arrests of terrorists who might have valuable intelligence information, all of which are important steps, yet we are still only reacting to the evil plans and designs of the terrorists trying to destroy us.  The Israeli government must shift to a paradigm that views the mere existence, the mere propaganda or gathering of persons associating themselves with terrorist groups as potential terror attacks.

The shocking fact is that 44 known kidnapping attempts were planned in the past 18 months. This sad reality illustrates that terror deterrence is low.  Imagine a toddler trying to open up a cabinet with glass dishes.  Each time the toddler crawls toward the cabinet, just as they open up the door, the parent picks them up and moves them back 15 feet, only to realize 5 minutes later that the toddler is again about to open up the cabinet.  If no obstacles are placed in way of the toddler, this process will recur until the glass dishes are eventually shattered.  Merely arresting terrorists who planned a kidnapping attempt will not deter terrorists from trying their luck at a later date.

Our security forces, as good as they may be, will never catch every terrorist attack being planned, and they can’t be expected to catch everything.  Reacting to terrorist organizations means that the terrorists determine the rules of the game; they decide when there is fighting, and when there is peace, and we are at their mercy.  Regretfully, Israel has played this game for too long.  The time has come for Israel to determine the rules of the game, and for the terrorists to be on the run.  The time has come for terrorists and those associated with terror organizations to live a life of uncertainty; to wonder if today is their last or if tomorrow they will still have a house or will still be living in the same country.

But before a paradigm shift can occur, the State of Israel must define for itself what it means to provide for the safety of its citizens.  The government must accept responsibility to provide a safe country for all Israeli citizens.  No Israeli citizen, Jew or non-Jew, should have to be afraid of random nationalistically motivated terror attacks in any part of this country.  Every Israeli should be able to walk in every part of this land, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River – until decided otherwise – proud and with his head held high.  Once this definition is accepted, then the Israeli government can move on to the next step – which is how to deal with those factions and individuals who wish to disturb this delicate situation.

Actual attacks, kidnappings and killings are the final stage in a planned terrorist attack.  But the roots go much deeper.  The defense establishment usually tries to foil terror attacks while they are still in the planning stages.  Many Palestinians are arrested while planning attacks or are the object of targeted killings if the IDF has knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack.  However, this course of action is only somewhat effective, and still constitutes only a reaction to the attack being planned.   There is still a stage that precedes the planning stage.

“Kiss the hand you cannot bite” is an old Arab proverb which says so much about the culture we are up against today – in Israel and throughout the Middle East.  One only needs to think about this sentence for a few minutes to realize the brutality that lies at the roots of such a society.  Our approach to terrorist organizations and to those who would seek our ill being must be to deal with these organizations at the level which precedes even the planning stages for an attack.  Terrorist organizations start from an ideology which begins with words, ideas, speeches and songs and ends with our bloodshed.  Our government needs to redefine the meaning of what constitutes an attack against the Jewish state.  For example, Hamas’s ideology is the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel; and let’s not fool ourselves, Hamas would use against Israelis the same brutality and barbarism that ISIS uses to terrorize their fellow Muslims, if only given the opportunity.  Thus, any activism, events, gatherings, flags, songs, all these seemingly minor steps constitute the beginning phases of a terrorist attack against Israel.  Therefore, our government must make clear that any show of support for Hamas in any form – flags, posters, speeches, presence at Hamas gatherings, even the smallest gesture of support – will be subject to deportation to Gaza or abroad no questions asked (other severe punishments could also be employed and this is just one of them).  Hamas, any terrorist organization, or group of people whose goal is the harm of Jewish people must not even be allowed the ability to organize.   This needs to be the new paradigm of the Israeli government against those who seek our destruction

PM Netanyahu was quick to point a finger at European incitement and de-legitimization of Israel as a cause for the recent terror attack in Brussels.  But incitement happens daily in our own backyard – even in the Knesset – and our government conveniently overlooks it.  However, incitement is  the beginning of a terrorist attack even though there is no direct attack traceable to any specific act of incitement.  Incitement against Israel and delegitimizing Israel are sources of inspiration for attacks, and an integral part in creating the environment motivating ordinary people to carry out attacks. These actions should be viewed as part of a terrorist attack, just as much as the person who makes the explosives belt for the terrorist to wear.

The Palestinian Authority must be notified that continued incitement against Israel through its media will lead to Israel destroying those media studios and buildings fostering such action, and deporting all those involved.  Institutionalized incitement through the school system will lead to deportation of teachers and confiscation of text books.  Furthermore, any incitement from the PA or from a PA figure  will lead to a continuous confiscation of funds that Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority, loss of any VIP status, and potential deportation (among other punishments that can be used to restore deterrence).

This policy of hitting at terrorist groups at their roots, must also apply to Israeli Arabs.  Any Israeli Arab who is seen openly supporting organizations who wish for our destruction or our harm will be viewed as a persona non grata and subject to loss of citizenship and expulsion from the country.  Only such a policy of relentless pursuit and punishment of our enemies at the root stages of terrorism – the stage that precede any planning of attacks – will restore deterrence.  Only when our enemies are terrified of the possible consequences of having any association with any terrorist group will Jews again be able to walk without fear in their own country.

This article does not attempt to discuss all of the tactics which must be employed to address terrorist attacks that occur, or to punish those who still wish to associate themselves with terrorist groups because there are many which can be taken.  Rather, the important thing is that our government, those charged with protecting the well-being of their citizens, will finally rise to the occasion and change the paradigm we have been operating under for the past 20 years.

This paradigm change is not only important for Israeli citizens, it is equally important for Jews worldwide.  When Israel is strong and fierce, and its resolve is unquestioned, then anti-Semites abroad take notice.  If those who would harm Jews know that the State of Israel strikes at terrorists at the organizational level of those who would harm Jews, then they will think twice before being part of these organizations.  They will risk the possibility of living in uncertainty as to whether they will be the target of the long arm of Israel’s security forces.  As the influence and impact of the Holocaust begins to wither from Europe and other parts of the world, and anti-Semite groups feel comfortable raising their heads, this paradigm change becomes ever more necessary.

Israel must respond appropriately to the brutal killings of the three high school boys.  At the same time we must change the current paradigm and restore the level of deterrence, which will create a true sense of safety for Israelis and Jews worldwide.  It’s time for the government to redefine what it means to provide a safe country for Israeli citizens, and redefine what it means to fight those who seek our destruction.

About the Author
Gideon Israel is the Director of the Jerusalem Washington Center which focuses on strengthening US-Israel relations through mutually beneficial policy projects.
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