Israelis deserve a leadership that is capable of interrupting the cycle of violence; they deserve more than juvenile assurances of retaliation.
By Nathan Hersh
Last month MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Orit Strock (Jewish Home) submitted a series of bills seeking to annex Area C of the West Bank to Israel. What would things look like today had the government agreed?
Such a vote would have been a victory for the Jewish Home party and the rest of the Greater Israel crowd, but it would result in a security nightmare.
The kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel would have taken place in Israel proper. Israel already controls all civil and security issues in Area C. If annexation were to go forward, a kidnapping in Gush Etzion would no different from a kidnapping in Haifa. In such a situation, the only option for combatting terrorism that would be available to Israel’s defense establishment is amplifying the failed tactics it already employs.
Annexation is not a solution to the security threat, it is agitation of it.
These MKs promise more conflict. They promise Israelis that the prisons will be filled with Hamas members by dawn. They may promise to bring back these boys, but they offer no promises to prevent the same thing from happening again tomorrow. They don’t promise a new system that will guarantee increased security for Israeli teenagers. They don’t promise clear borders to separate us from the Palestinians, who they also tell us is the enemy. They don’t promise better coordination with PA security forces in order to prevent situations like these. They don’t promise to pursue new methods of intelligence gathering or surveillance that can be achieved without energizing Palestinian frustration. They do not promise to seek alternatives to army outposts in Israel’s innovative tech industry so that, even if an agreement with the Palestinians isn’t within reach, at least we won’t stoke the conflict and invite justified international criticism with IDF boots on Palestinian necks in the meantime.
In situations like these, when the nation is angry, the government expects Israelis to replace their demand for security with a demands for vengeance. They expect that building more homes on the front lines will make Israelis feel better about the infuriating situation they face. But revenge and settlements will not bring back these boys. This kidnapping is proof that the occupation cannot uphold its promise to protect them; it has failed Israel.
Israel needs a new system to protect its civilians. Rather than relying on infantry units — and civilians — throughout the West Bank, which opens Israel up to more abductions, the defense establishment should look to the tech industry for unmanned surveillance methods. Instead of piling blame on Mahmoud Abbas in front of the news media, Israel should activate more lines of communication and coordination with the Palestinian Authority; having contacts on the other side is very helpful in these situations. Finally, the Israeli government should encourage its citizens in settlements to move within the Green Line as the best line of defense against future kidnappings.
Israelis deserve a leadership that understands the meaning of the phrase “cycle of violence,” they deserve politicians capable of interrupting it and they deserve more than the juvenile assurance of retaliation.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to blame the Palestinian Authority, saying, “If the abduction comes from PA territory, it is responsible.” But this abduction happened in Gush Etzion, not in Jenin. It happened in territory where Israel already controls all civil and security matters. It was not a new threat and it was not unexpected. It was not the result of a new Hamas strategy to destroy us. It happened because whenever Israel’s government is asked to choose between the welfare of its citizens and settlements, it chooses the latter.
Nathan Hersh served in a combat unit of the IDF primarily in the West Bank. He is now the managing director of Partners for Progressive Israel, formerly known as Meretz USA. He lives in Brooklyn.