Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant blamed Iran for the ongoing terror wave in the West Bank. Netanyahu said, “We are in the midst of a terrorist onslaught that is being encouraged, directed, and financed by Iran and its proxies. The most significant change on the ground is related to Iranian financing and intent.”
This is an easy accusation to make since Iran is known to fund terrorism. The accusation may even be largely true. The problem, however, is that it is a deflection away from accepting Israel’s own responsibility for the violence. It does not recognize that Israel’s own policies have provided two elements that make Palestinian terrorism more likely: Placing half a million Israelis in the West Bank, many within easy reach of terrorists, and maintaining a climate of desperation and dependency for Palestinians that pushes many into the arms of terrorist groups.
This is just common sense, but there is no need to believe the words of an Arab who lives in Canada. Even starker warnings are coming from Israel’s own security community.
Amiram Levin, a former IDF general and former deputy director of the Mossad spy agency, says that in the West Bank, Israel has discriminatory policies towards the Palestinians that are similar to Nazi Germany.
Ami Ayalon, a former head of Shin Bet, wrote, “To kill terrorist leaders without addressing the despair of their supporters is a fool’s errand and produces more frustration, more despair, and more terrorism. The more we ‘win’ such a misbegotten war – the more we debase civil society and democratic norms – the more we turn our society into an Orwellian dystopia in which truth and lies are indistinguishable.”
These are just two examples among many. Israel’s security community has been warning Israeli governments for many years that Israel’s policies in the West Bank are feeding into Palestinian terrorism rather than reducing it, yet the current government is pushing full steam ahead with exactly those policies.
In reaction to the latest Palestinian terrorist attacks, Netanyahu said that Israel would use “additional means to even the score with the murderers and those who send them, near and far”. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich promised to expand settlements at an even faster rate. Yitzhak Kroizer, Member of the Knesset for Otzma Yehudit, demanded “revenge”. Far-right ministers advocated a series of anti-terrorist measures which, by the way, were met with pushback from top Israeli security officials.
If the government’s plans go ahead, and we can expect that most of them will, it will lead to more settlements and to more terrorists arrested or killed, but it will also lead to even more Palestinian terrorism.
Israel must come to grips with this bottom line: either the West Bank / Judea and Samaria is part of Israel or it isn’t. If it is part of Israel as many on the Israeli right like to claim then Amiram Levin is right to say that it is “absolute apartheid”. But if it isn’t part of Israel then Israel should limit its activities in the West Bank to its legitimate military occupation, and it should not build settlements, especially deep in the West Bank.
Israel cannot square the circle in the West Bank. It cannot forever have its cake and eat it too. It cannot keep treating the West Bank as if it was part of Israel while not giving all residents equal rights. As long as it continues to try to do that, it will fail, and it will encounter increasing violence.
While Israelis mourn their dead at the hands of Palestinian terrorism, they have every right to feel anger at the terrorists and at a Palestinian society has been forever rejecting any reasonable compromise with Israel. At the same time, however, they should ask their government why it continues to pursue the very policies that are known to produce even more terrorism, and they should vote accordingly.