Shooting the guard — yet again

I am not a bleeding-heart liberal. I am a card-carrying member of the Likud party. I belong to the so-called left wing of the Likud. I think there was a ‘Naqba’ in 1947 when Arab families were separated and fled the land they are so clearly attached. I also understand why since 1967, the Palestinians believe they are occupied. Because of their pain, I would expect that they would be willing to take the extra mile, they would understand that our security needs are just that and would negotiate appropriately. It truly is their turn to go the extra mile – after all it is their pain. That is not the point of this article, but it gives the lie to my mindset.

For better or worse, we are in a position of controlling, mainly indirectly, the lives of 3 million Arabs who do not want us to control them. Nor do we wish to control them. The result of this unfortunate situation, a situation to which the Palestinians have contributed greatly, is 18 to 21-year-old soldiers confronting 12 to 25-year-old Palestinian children.

No one in the Israeli army has ever suggested to deliberately kill Palestinians. Palestinians certainly have suggested and encouraged their children to kill soldiers and indeed Israeli citizens. The Palestinians are doing their very best to garner world opinion against us. In many respects it is legitimate and more fool us in allowing them an almost free hand. Nonetheless, an organisation like B’Zalem enhances the political struggle against Israel. The political and armed struggle against Israel go hand-in-hand. No one in B’Zalem can claim either innocence or ignorance. Nor can they claim they are merely trying to prevent injustice. They are not and they well know it; we all know it, and it’s time that this was made public and stopped. Freedom of speech does not include cynical abuse of free speech in order to subbort the defence forces.

Three cities occupied us recently: Brussels, Ankara and Hebron. In Brussels, the authorities are admonishing themselves they did not manage to shoot terrorists. In Ankara, they were annoyed at the terrorists and relieved that they only managed to kill Jews. In Hebron, we go full circle from Brussels; the authorities admonish a soldier killing a terrorist whose sole intent was to slaughter Jews.

I am not going to prejudge the Hebron issue, this is the whole point of this article. No one should prejudge this issue, and certainly no one should be making political capital from a most unfortunate incident. The same judiciary which sent a President and Prime Minister to prison after a fair trial, the same judiciary which freed a Nazi mass murderer because of a legal technicality is quite capable of judging the issue. There was no need to behave in the manner we have behaved. I blame Netanyahu and Ayalon. The clarity of orders  for opening fire was within  their direct responsibility. If they feel the present incident indicates some aberration, it is  their responsibility to correct it. This is their responsibility. But first there must be the investigation and, if need be, a trial. We’ve had quite enough of putting the guard on public trial when the generals fail. Both the Prime Minister and his Minister of Defence prejudged the issue, both rushed to make provocative and judgmental statements. It was their job to defend the Hebron soldier, a soldier they had sent, in our name, to defend us. Unlike the soldier, they turned their back and took the cowards way out. If need be, the soldier will be placed on trial – hopefully, a fair one. Until then, he is innocent until proven otherwise. Till then he  deserves defending not condemning. Never more do than by the PM and his defence minister.

As an Israeli, I have been in similar situations to the soldier in Hebron. The three differences being: there was no B’Zelem, I was not in immediate and direct danger nor did I have leaders who behaved like weather vanes.

As a father of active soldiers I say adamantly, I want my children to come home. If there’s any doubt, if there’s any danger, then the person — the terrorist, who precipitated that doubt and danger should pay the full price. We all know it is a matter of time before a corpse or a wounded Palestinian will be carrying a bomb. We all know the damage will be severe. Our soldiers will now hesitate. Before last week, they wouldn’t have. Now they will hesitate and place themselves in danger. This state of affairs is intolerable.  And we all know who is at fault and exactly what they will do.

I am more worried about the behaviour and moral fibre of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence than I am about the Israeli Defence Force and those who serve in it. 

About the Author
Born in Leeds in 1944, Michael Benjamin is a retired Psychiatrist and medical auditor, co-founder of Oranit, aspiring author and inveterate cynic.
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