Eric S. Sherby

To reduce terror attacks, take away ‘our’ cars

All Israelis are concerned by the recent increase in deadly terrorist attacks. Perhaps the solution to this problem needs to be applied on a city-by-city (or village-by-village) basis.

I live in the city of Modi’in, the population of which is (I presume) at least 99% Jewish. The “next time” a resident of Modi’in takes his car, drives it to Jenin or Qalqilya, and then rams it into pedestrians, I will support having the Israeli Defense Forces impose a seven-day blockade on Modi’in – preventing me and my fellow Modi’in residents from taking our private cars out of the city.

I have spoken to a friend who lives in Ra’anana – which is also a city that (we assume) is populated 99% by Jews. My friend agrees that, the “next time” a resident of Ra’anana takes his car and commits a drive-by shooting of civilians near Nablus or Huwara, he will support having the IDF impose a seven-day blockade on Ra’anana – preventing him and his fellow Ra’anana residents from taking their private cars out of the city.

I think that most Jewish Israelis in such cities – Petah Tiqvah, Beit Shemesh, Rehovot, etc. – would agree with the concept that a very good way to prevent the use of cars to commit terrorist acts is to let the neighbors of the would-be attacker know that there’s a price for being a neighbor of such a person.

Undoubtedly many people (Jews and non-Jews) who insist on the equal application of the law would agree that the same “take away our cars” policy should be applied to Jenin, Qalqilya, Nablus, or any other city from which Arabs have committed terrorist attacks using cars.

So, there is no good reason for the IDF not to impose such a policy immediately. The IDF should announce that, the next time an Arab from any city, town, or village across the Green Line uses a vehicle to commit any act of terror, the immediate response of the IDF will be to impose a seven-day blockade of all private cars coming out of that city. Violators (even those not in possession of a weapon) will have their tires shot at.

Yes, such a policy would entail a concerted effort by the IDF – manning every exit from a city. Some cities are bigger than others, and some have more exits than others. These factors mean that imposing a blockade on some cities could be complicated. The manpower to impose a blockade would be extensive. To those who might question whether it is worthwhile to devote the army’s resources to blockading a city that houses terrorists, the simplest response is the best – the army exists to protect civilians, and so long as a city houses terrorists, it is the army’s job to ensure that the city’s inhabitants do not commit any terrorist acts.

The most likely reason that the blockade of cars policy has so far not been adopted is that there has not been the political will to do so.

Therein lies the problem. Successive Israeli governments have failed to make the clear statement that there is no God-given right to drive a car. Civilians can travel via buses or other forms of public transportation.

Some would argue that a seven-day blockade of an Arab city in Judea or Samaria would take too great an economic toll on Israeli industries that employ Arabs from those areas. Tell that to the family of the Dee mother and sisters or the family of Bat Sheva Negri or the family of any other victim of a drive-by Arab terrorist shooting or a car ramming.

Ever since the first intifada, complete closures of Judea and Samaria were imposed when the IDF perceived a need to do so because of intelligence concerning credible evidence of an impending security threat. Although the economic toll of such a closure was often taken into account, it rarely (if ever) outweighed the need to impose a closure when there was a credible threat.

Unfortunately we are well past the point of needing “evidence” of a “credible threat” to know that the danger of drive-by shootings and car rammings is real. Specifically, recent events have demonstrated that, in the war on terrorism, reliance upon intelligence is insufficient. A great deal of intelligence comes from intercepted communications – yet the terrorists in Judea and Samaria have enough weapons and enough cars that they do not need to engage in extensive electronic communications to plan a drive-by shooting.

Drive-by terrorists use such method of killing because they believe that there is a chance that, after committing their shooting attack, they could quickly return to “friendly” surroundings. The 7-day blockade policy is intended (among other things) to reduce that perception.

Some would oppose the 7-day blockade policy on grounds that it constitutes “collective punishment.” The term “collective punishment” is, of course, not easy to define.

To those who would argue that the 7-day blockade policy is a form of collective punishment, I say that it is less so than the punishment imposed upon thousands of Israelis who feel compelled – day after day, week after week – to avoid certain roads due to the threat of terrorism (which is, of course, largely the point of such terrorist attacks).

If we have to choose between (on the one hand) the “collective punishment” imposed upon the many Israeli drivers who fear for their lives on certain roads and (on the other hand) the “collective punishment” (under the proposal above) upon citizens of an Arab city that houses terrorists, the choice should be easy:  Let them take buses.

Nobody has a God-given right to drive a car. But we all have a God-given right not to get shot from, or run over by, someone else’s car. It is time for our national leadership and security establishment to make – and carry out – policy accordingly.

About the Author
Eric S. Sherby is an American-Israeli lawyer, specializing in international litigation and arbitration, at the firm of Sherby & Co., Advs., which he founded in 2004. For ten years, he was the Chair of the International Litigation Department of Yigal Arnon & Co. He serves as a Vice Chair of the ABA's International Litigation Committee.
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