Devin Sper

Short-term thinking in Jerusalem

 Last week I wrote an article praising “The Israeli cabinet’s brave and sober decision to keep metal detectors at the Temple Mount, despite riots and foreign pressure.”  Before I could publish it, the sad but predictable decision to remove them was announced.  This despite the advice of the responsible police and security authorities that metal detectors were necessary to prevent another attack.

Claims about replacing metal detectors with “smart cameras” that can detect weapons are nothing more than a sop to the Israeli people, as no such smart cameras currently exist.  Even if they were to be developed in the future, there is no reason to believe that the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and their supporters will view such cameras more favorably than the metal detectors.  The removal of the metal detectors will not end Palestinian agitation, because the real issue was never metal detectors, but sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

The Israeli government’s demonstrated lack of will on this issue will inevitably lead to greater demands for full Muslim sovereignty over Judaism’s holiest site.  Like a shark that smells blood, Israel’s enemies have only increased the ferocity of their demands following Israel’s display of weakness.  President Erdogan of Turkey has said that the removal of the metal detectors is “not enough.”   Palestinian Authority President Abbas declares that he will not restore full security cooperation with Israel and calls for an intensification of the struggle over the Temple Mount.  Hamas declares Israel’s capitulation a victory, which of course it is for Israel’s enemies.  For the same reason, Israel’s failure to stand her ground in her own just cause undermines and disheartens her supporters.  How can we defend Israel’s positions in the future, knowing they will be reversed in short order?

The decision to remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount reflects typical short-term thinking on the part of the Israeli government.  Attacks on Israelis on the Temple Mount, and the participation in terrorism by Israeli Arabs, can be expected to increase now that their murder of Druze Israeli soldiers has been rewarded. Israel correctly criticizes the PA for encouraging terrorism by honoring the murderers and paying their families.  Yet Israel is no less complicit when she rewards their heinous actions with concessions of her own.

Like an adolescent, Israel lacks confidence in her own judgment and takes her cues from everyone else around her.  Once again, she has accepted self-serving and even malicious advice from other nations, such as Turkish strong man Erdogan, Arab dictators, and anti-Israel Western European elites.

Of course, it is in Israel’s interest to consider the advice of other countries.  But national maturity and reason require that Israel not assume that other states’ grasp of Israel’s existential struggle is necessarily superior to her own, or that their advice is even well-intentioned.

As in the past, many Israelis will assume U.S. pressure in particular was behind an otherwise incomprehensible decision on the part of their government.  While Israel has understandably been especially solicitous of the advice of her main ally, the United States, U.S. advice serves American, and not necessarily Israeli, interests.  Israel would be better served emulating the U.S. policy on terrorism; uncompromising defense of her citizens and her sovereignty.

The United States has long pressured Israel to negotiate with and make concessions to terror, something she herself never does.  On the contrary, the United States spent decades hunting down and ultimately killing Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and even Hussein’s children.  Under President Obama, the United States used drones to assassinate thousands of members of Al Qaida and ISIS, never engaging in negotiations with them.

When Saddam Hussein endangered not America, but merely American oil interests half way around the world in the First Gulf War, the United States went to war with Iraq, bombing Iraqi cities and wiping out her armed forces. When America felt herself seriously threatened by Germany in WWII, she did not hesitate to carpet bomb German cities and kill millions of civilians. Even when the war was already won, America used nuclear weapons on Japanese cities to prevent U.S. casualties in a ground invasion.  Every nation operates by these same criteria; it is high time Israel stopped allowing herself to be made an exception, entertaining criticism from other countries when she defends her national security. If Israel wishes to be taken seriously by the rest of the world, she must show that she takes her own sovereignty seriously.

The only good news in all this is that the Israeli people do not share their leadership’s short-term thinking and defeatism.   Polls show that the great majority supported the decision to install the metal detectors following the murder of Israeli soldiers on the Temple Mount; 77% see the decision to remove them as a cave-in by the Israeli government.  This is consistent with the unwavering stoicism exhibited by the Israeli people since the creation of their state.  Unfortunately, they have seen all their hard-won victories on the battlefield since 1967 squandered by weak-willed diplomats.    Invaluable strategic territory has been returned to the aggressors who use it to continue their war of annihilation against Israel.  In Israel’s most recent wars in Gaza and Lebanon, the people overwhelmingly called for a decisive victory at all costs, while their leadership dithered.  Each Israeli failure to seek, much less reach, a decision on the battlefield resulted in a short-term cease fire followed by a deadlier war a few years later.

Considering the almost universal short-term thinking, poor judgment, and defeatism of their media and political and intellectual elites, the common sense, bravery, and steadfastness of the Israeli people are incredible.  Imagine what they could achieve with leadership worthy of them.

About the Author
Devin Sper was born and raised in New York and lived in Israel for 10 years. He holds a degree in Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and served in the Israel Defense Forces. Devin Sper is the author of The Future of Israel, winner of a 2005 GLYPH award.