Tuesday, November 21, 2000

A constructive response to terror

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Attached is another article from the Jerusalem Post by a member of our Synagogue. Whilst Michael's views are usually a little right of mine, he does make an interesting point. The thing that brought Arafat to the peace table was not just international pressure and financial bankruptcy of the PLO, but the huge Russian Aliya together with the settlement program which came at the same time. Arafat saw that if he did not act, there would not be much territory left to argue over. Food for thought.

The Jerusalem Post, November 21, 2000
A constructive response to terror
By Michael Freund

(November 21) - After the horrific bombing of a school bus near Kfar Darom in Gaza, voices have already been heard demanding the removal of Jewish settlements from the area. Just three hours after the attack, MK Tamar Gozansky told Israel Radio that Prime Minister Ehud Barak would be wise to uproot such communities to enable the peace process to get back on track.

On the other side of the political spectrum, calls are mounting for a more forceful response, one that would employ the full power of the IDF to punish the terrorists and those who permit them to operate freely.

In the heat of the debate, both sides have overlooked a straightforward and blood-free option that might make the terrorists think twice before perpetrating such outrages. To put it simply: the more you kill us, the more we will build. For every Palestinian act of destruction, Israel will undertake an act of construction. It is a solution that has its roots in the Zionist response to the Arab riots of 1936.

Alarmed by the growing Jewish presence in the land of Israel, Arab rioters attacked Jaffa on April 19, 1936, and killed 16 Jews. Shortly thereafter, the Arab High Command launched a general strike, and insisted that the British mandatory authorities adopt measures aimed at restricting the expansion of the Yishuv, as the Jewish community of Israel was then known.
The leaders of the Yishuv, such as David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, faced a dilemma. To appease Arab violence would require agreeing to the cessation of Jewish immigration and land reclamation. But such an option would not only have run counter to basic Zionist principles, it would have further weakened the shaky demographic equation between Jews and Arabs in the struggle over who would control Palestine.

In his memoirs, Ben-Gurion describes how the Yishuv ultimately decided to respond to the Arab demands: "The Yishuv defended itself with courage, wisdom, and restraint... Not one Jewish settlement was abandoned; instead, new ones were established." (Israel: A Personal History, p. 48.)

Rather than yielding to Arab threats and violence, Ben-Gurion and the Zionist leadership pressed forward. In the face of those who sought to reduce the Jewish population, they responded by intensifying efforts to enlarge it as much as possible.

Modern-day Israel would do well to follow this example. Punishing Arab terror with retaliatory measures is of course necessary to ensure that such actions are not allowed to continue with impunity. But if Israel aims to truly put a halt to terror, it must hit back at the Palestinians where it really hurts them most: on the issue of settlements.

The Palestinians' primary complaint in international forums and in its negotiations with Israel is the expansion of Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. The Palestinians use nearly every media opportunity that comes their way to drive home the point that they find building in the settlements to be utterly intolerable. It is this "sensitivity" on their part that Israel needs to begin exploiting.

Israel should announce a change in policy, whereby every destructive Palestinian act of terrorism will be met with a constructive Israeli response. This is not to imply a moral equivalence between the two. Just the opposite.

The central aim of terrorism is to kill Jews, to reduce the number of Jews living in Israel. Thus, it must be made clear to the Palestinian Authority that for every Jewish home that is shattered by the murder of a family member, a dozen more homes will be built in a settlement in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Any attempt to reduce the number of Jews living in Israel will be met by efforts to increase that number.

An added benefit of such a policy is that the Palestinians will have only themselves to "blame" for continued building in the settlements. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will know that every time he permits Hamas to blow up a bus, he is in effect issuing a building permit for another Jewish neighborhood in Gaza.

Thus far, Israeli military retaliation has failed to stop Arafat from fomenting violence for his own purposes. But the expansion of the Jewish presence in his vicinity may be more than even he would be willing to bear.

(The writer is a former deputy director of communications and policy planning in the Prime Minister's Office.)


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