There is an appropriate Zionist response. It’s not revenge.
This past Friday, April 7th, two young women and their mother, Rina, Maia, and Lucy Dee from our small town of Efrat were murdered by Arab terrorists. Having lost a son ourselves six years ago, my family has an inkling of the abyss the survivors of the attack will face. But our loss was the result of an accident. This was murder for political ends, and Hamas has already praised the murderers as Palestinian heroes. There are no words to describe what happened – just horror and rage. The desire for revenge under these circumstances is clearly understandable, but it is both wrong and counter-productive. Neither individuals nor governments have the right to act against innocent people, Jews or Arabs alike, whatever the circumstances. Instead, Israel should adopt a policy of “an appropriate Zionist response”: building in those areas in the West Bank that a large majority of Israelis are committed to keeping under any conceivable agreement with the Palestinians, beginning with the Jordan River Valley, where the murder took place. We can learn this from the behavior of Israel’s most influential Prime Ministers, David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin.
Eighty-seven years ago, almost to the day, on April 15, 1936, three Jews were murdered by Arab terrorists on the road to Tiberias, not far from Friday’s attack. Then as now, the murder was intended to strike fear in the hearts of Jews. Then as now, the temptation to launch attacks against non-combatants was very real. The day after the ambush, however, David Ben Gurion warned against revenge and called instead to focus on building the country. His words apply no less today:
“People say to us the Arabs do such and such, so we should too. But we say to them- the means should reflect the end. If our ends were like those of the Arabs, then their means might become ours as well. But in fact, the means of the Arabs serve their ends rather than ours. What is their purpose? To destroy any possibility of building up the land. And what is ours – we want to change the status quo, to bring multitudes of immigrants, to build and be built. We need to plant, to work the land, to produce. If we act as the Arabs do, we will not accomplish this. I believe that those who today murdered our people in an ambush were not only trying to kill a few Jews, but they intended to create a provocation, to force us into a trap so that we would act as they do and turn this country into a blood bath. …Should we assist these destructive manipulations? “
Forty-four years later, on May 2, 1980, Palestinian terrorists dispatched by Yasser Arafat murdered six Jews outside of Beit Hadassah in Hebron. At that time Israel’s prime minister was Menachem Begin. In words that could have come from Ben Gurion, Begin is reputed to have called for “an appropriate Zionist response.” By that, he meant not revenge, but to build up the Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael…and build he did. During the first two years of Begin’s government, Mitzpe Yericho, Neve Zuf, Beit El, Shilo, Givon, Sanur, Karnei Shomron, Beit Horon, Tekoa, and Alon Moreh all broke ground. After the massacre, dozens more “settlements” were added, including Beit Hagai, which was founded by the friends and relatives of the fallen from the attack in Hebron. That was an “appropriate Zionist response” then, and it remains so today.
Some might argue that the “expansion of settlements” is what caused most of the Palestinian violence in the first place. The opposite is true. During the first 24 years of its existence, the Palestinian Liberation Organization unabashedly demanded the destruction of Israel. It was the settlement policy of Menachem Begin in the 1980s, not military force, that convinced the PLO to publicly endorse the two-state idea. True, the Palestinian Authority is light years away from accepting a compromise that most Israelis would not consider suicidal, either in terms of borders or the right of return for refugees, but the principle remains the same: Jewish settlement is the most effective means of forcing the Palestinian leadership to the negotiating table. The two caveats are that settlement should be done in only the areas Israel intends to keep, and that annexation of any territory must include a guarantee of citizenship for all its residents. Both of these require a national conversation about our future.
The Jordan River Valley is already part of the national Israeli consensus. Most Israelis, including those who subscribe to the concept of dividing the Land with the Palestinians, agree that it must remain part of Israel under any circumstances. The most appropriate Zionist response to the murder of Rina, Maia, and Lucy would be to build new Jewish towns and cities in the Jordan River Valley in their memory.
Eventually, the Palestinian leadership may sign off on an agreement that Israel can live with, but for that to happen they need to realize that continued bloodshed will energize rather than intimidate Israel. It is therefore an Israeli strategic interest to renew the building process in areas of national consensus, the “settlement blocs” and the Jordan River.