The Real West Bank Terror War
Jonathan S. Tobin
The Israelis have done it again. After Secretary of State John Kerry managed to drag both parties back to the peace table, the Israelis are doing their utmost to sabotage the talks by provoking the Palestinians with violent incursions into Palestinian towns and villages that have resulted in the indiscriminate use of gunfire by the Israel Defense Forces that led to several deaths of innocent Arabs. If the Palestinian Authority has stayed away from the negotiations in order to protest this, then it is the only way they have of protecting their people against Israeli outrages. Or so we are being told.
The prevailing narrative of the incidents alluded to in the preceding paragraph follow this line in which the presence of Israeli forces in Palestinian areas is not merely a provocation but a standing argument for the need to force the Jewish state to pull back to the 1967 lines. But the problem with this narrative is that it is based on a lie. Incidents like the one that occurred today in Qalandia that resulted in three Palestinian deaths and last week’s confrontation in Jenin do illustrate the problem with the peace process, but it is not the one that the liberal mainstream media and the international press think it is. The idea that Israel is staging these attacks to undermine the talks is false. The fact that the IDF is forced to enter built-up areas in order to track down terrorist suspects shows just how unreliable the Palestinian Authority is as a peace partner. Moreover, the willingness of mobs in these towns to rally to defend suspects and attack the IDF with gunfire and rocks is testimony to how deeply rooted support for terror operations is in a Palestinian population that we are told is ready for an end to the conflict.
It needs to be understood that the relative lack of terrorism directed at Israel from the West Bank is not solely the work of the security fence that is reviled by the left for its role in preventing suicide bombings. It is also the function of proactive IDF actions in the West Bank, including checkpoints that make it harder for killers to move about with impunity, and raids such as the ones that have recently led to shootings where the Israelis can arrest those planning or guilty of having committed terrorism.
Going after these terrorists is dangerous work, especially when ordinary Palestinians still venerate those who seek to kill Jews and are willing to risk injury to prevent their arrest. The notion that IDF troops should submit to live fire as well as lethal rock showers without seeking to defend themselves is not a standard that anyone would apply to any other army or police force in the world.
However, the argument that the IDF should forebear from seeking to capture these killers in order to protect the talks is one that is incompatible with their duty to protect the Jewish state’s citizens against terrorism. If the PA and the Palestinian people want such incidents to cease, then they have only to police their own population—as they promised to do in the 1993 Oslo Accords.
The idea that the West Bank should be treated in the same manner as Gaza—a no-go zone where terrorists should be free to live without fear of arrest—represents a peculiar take on peace. Expecting Israel to turn a blind eye to terror while the talks are going on only sets up the process for more trouble since it is unlikely that Israel’s critics would think the Jewish state would be justified if they called a halt to negotiations to protect a successful attack.
Since the peace process is supposed to be predicated in no small part on the cessation of terrorism and a Palestinian commitment to deal with terrorism, it’s difficult to understand why the IDF should be criticized for stepping into the vacuum left by an incompetent and corrupt PA. That members of PA head Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party are often responsible for terror, and not just their Hamas rivals, further undermines the rationale for further empowering the PA.
The attitude toward terror on the part of the PA—which is routinely lauded by the United States for its cooperation with Israeli security forces—is a crucial stumbling block to the peace process. If Israel cannot trust the PA to stop terror without having to send its own forces in, it begs the question of what will happen once these towns are safely inside a Palestinian state and therefore immune to IDF action.
Rather than criticizing the Israelis, the Palestinians’ foreign cheerleaders should be increasing pressure on the PA to act on its own to squelch terror. If they don’t, it won’t be fair to blame Israel for acting to defend their populations from Palestinian attacks. That Israel finds itself obligated to go into Arab towns to keep terrorists from killing more Jews is nothing more than the latest evidence that genuine peace is a long way off.