Simplifying the Facts: Never a Good Thing

Early last week, US Ambassador to Israel caused a diplomatic furor in his address to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) when he said: “Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities, too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and a times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.” This on the very same day that Dafna Meir, the 39-year-old mother of six was being buried after being killed by a Palestinian terrorist in the doorway of her home the evening before, while a pregnant woman was injured in a separate attack at another location that day as well. Talk about bad timing.

Prime Minister Netanyahu was quick in his reply denouncing this statement as “unacceptable and incorrect.”

Today’s New York Times jumped on the bandwagon as well and taking up the cudgel from Amb. Shapiro went on to criticize Israel (nothing new about that) in an editorial headlined “The Fading Two-State Solution.”  They made the statement that “Israel is moving quickly to establish facts on the ground that preclude a Palestinian state, leaving Palestinians increasingly marginalized and despairing.”

The piece is written as if this is a newly discovered issue that has just surfaced, rather than a challenge that has confronted Israel ever since its victory in the Six Day War of 1967 if not even earlier after the 1948 War of Independence.   And, of course, the New York Times makes no mention at all of the ongoing current debate in the United States where, even if everyone is governed by the same court system, the statistics show that in many districts there are, indeed, “two standards of adherence to the rule of law” one for white Americans and the other for black Americans.

For sure, there is frustration here on both sides and that frustration is being played out daily on the streets of Israel as mostly young Palestinians leave their homes intent on murdering Jews at knife-point and seemingly willing to die in the process while mostly young Israelis living in Judea and Samaria (also referred to in the press as the West Bank) engage in what can only be described as vigilante actions against Palestinians, albeit with less frequency than those wielding knives against us.

Sadly, most of the Palestinian youths who wield those knives end up being killed by Israeli security forces, which is what caused Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom to criticize Israel for “conducting extra judicial executions” in such cases.  Easy for her to say this when she is not faced with a terrorist about to stab her in the neck. Rabbinic discussions of the issue have always led to the conclusion that if someone comes to kill you (i.e., with homicidal intentions), then you have an obligation to kill him (or her as the case may be) first.

All of these comments made by people looking in at Israel and not part of the population living here every day are general statements which, in addition to often being inaccurate, are less than helpful in addressing the real issues at hand.  If people wanted to be really helpful rather than simply critical there are questions that could be asked that do demand answers.

For example, yes, knife wielding assailants need to be stopped in their tracks before they can do their damage but, rabbinic discourse notwithstanding, do they need to be killed?  Wouldn’t shooting them in the legs so as to make it impossible for them to continue on their mission be sufficient?

Does it really accomplish anything at all to destroy the homes of the families of these assailants?  Will doing so reduce the number of attacks or will it make people ever more frustrated and encourage more attacks?

While settlement building may be what the Palestinians claim is the obstacle to peace, that argument loses much of its meaning, as when Israel declared a 10-month moratorium on such building a few years ago, the Palestinian leadership could not find time to sit down with Israel and talk until the very last week of the moratorium when their conditions for talking were an extension of that moratorium.  So does any thinking person really believe that settlements are an obstacle to peace?

As in any dispute there are always two sides to the story and each side believes their version is the accurate one.  The issues will never be solved by outside forces pointing the finger at both sides and saying “you are wrong.”  The only long term hope is that both sides will one day sit down and conclude that there is no future without some agreement to live with each other peacefully.  If that does not come to pass, those of us living in this amazing place are doomed to continue living in fear of each other along with the consequences that come from that sad reality.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 29 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Immediate Past Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.