We here in Israel have been dealing with a number of obscenities of late – including, from my perspective, the deceitful, destructive stance of the US right now. But much of this will wait for my next posting. What I have in mind at present is the abomination of taking innocent human life to serve a political goal or express a political hatred.
I was away from my computer last night, March 29, when news broke of yet another terrorist attack. This one – in the city of Bnei Brak, just east of Tel Aviv – took five lives. Here, I provide an over-view; I hope to return for a further analysis before Shabbat.
The terrorist used an M-16 rifle to kill his victims. One was shot in a car, and three others were found in two locations outside the car.
Two local residents were killed in the attack, both fathers: Yaakov Shalom, 36, left below, and Avishai Yehezkel, 29, right.
A police officer, Amir Khoury, 32, a Christian Arab from Nof Hagalil also lost his life. He was a member of the motorcycle responder team that caught up with the terrorist and killed him. Khoury was shot in the exchange of gun fire and was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
And two Ukrainian foreign workers were killed. Both were reportedly employed in construction and lived in the city.
The terrorist was a Palestinian Arab with Fatah who lived in the village of Ya’bad in the Shomron. He had spent some time in prison, but I’m picking up conflicting reports on what he had been charged with – planning a suicide bombing or illegal arms dealing. Reportedly he worked in construction illegally in Bnei Brak.
His brother and other suspects from Ya’bad have been detained for questioning.
As horrific as this attack was, what sent Israel reeling was the fact that this was the third terror attack in a week – possibly the worst week we’ve seen since the end of the second intifada.
I had written about the horrendous attack in Be’ersheva that took place last Tuesday:
This past Sunday, two Border Police officers – Yazan Fallah and Shirel Aboukaret – were killed in Hadera by two Israeli Arabs from the northern Arab city of Umm el-Fahm, a hotbed of radicalism. They had posted a video on Facebook before the attack swearing allegiance to ISIS (just as the Be’ersheva terrorist had ISIS connections). These terrorists were taken out by undercover officers who happened to be nearby.
There was tough talk from a number of the members of the government following this last attack. Prime Minister Bennett told the Israeli public:
“The IDF, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police have significantly increased their intelligence operations in order to reach, in a timely manner, those who are planning to carry out attacks. We have also reinforced the presence throughout the country of those in uniform and those carrying weapons.”
He further said police have shifted to working in an emergency capacity and that the IDF will reinforce police units “with 15 companies of our best soldiers.” There will also be a new response unit of police motorcycles.
The Border Police will be reinforced with three additional companies as well, including one positioned near the Gaza Strip.
And Israeli military stationed in Judaea & Samaria and along the seam line have been reinforced with 15 battalions, “a very considerable force.”
Bennett said he had also ordered a crackdown on illegal weapons in Arab communities, and against anyone with ties to Islamic State, including with preventive arrests.
Additionally, most soldiers in mandatory, career, and reserve service will carry their weapons home when on leave from base. This is a departure from what has been the norm.
Significantly, Bennett also said:
All of this is excellent.
But my first thought is, why did this take so long? There has been altogether too much tip-toeing, too much leftist eagerness to please and go easy on the Arabs, even as threats of terrorism were in the air. There has been too much reluctance to show strength, when that show of strength is crucial. Too much eagerness to please the Americans (and this I will most certainly return to).
And then I ask, how long this will last? If things seem quiet, will practices go back to where they had been? There are significant long-term problems to deal with, and there is no quick fix. In terms of a crackdown on illegal Arab weapons – we are looking at a very major operation if Bennett is serious. There are tens of thousands of illegal weapons in the hands of Arabs. And we need not only to confiscate them but to ask how they get these weapons. (The answers are not pretty.)
I point out that Ramadan, a Muslim holiday associated with increased violence begins this coming Saturday night and lasts for a month. See:
Before this last attack, there had been talk within the government of easing restrictions over Ramadan.
And I note that the way in which the problem can or should be handled is not the same for Israeli Arabs (who present a more significant problem) and Palestinian Arabs. There are major issues here that must be confronted at last.
Bennett alluded to ISIS, but Hamas and Palestinian Authority involvement and incitement must be tackled head-on as well (whether “two-state” Blinkin likes it or not).
Lastly, let me allude to the make-up of the current government coalition, which makes it difficult for Bennett to stay strong, even if he has inclination to do so, if he wants to remain prime minister. It’s Ra’am, of course, and Meretz, and Labor. But I’ve also just read about tension between Defense Minister Gantz – who spoke of being satisfied with a half-hearted condemnation of the attack from Mahmoud Abbas of the PA, while Bennett said calling a halt to “pay-for slay” would be more appropriate.
Gantz has made some hi-powered statements: “Whatever it takes, we will break this wave of terror. We will bring back peace and stability in a forceful, smart and responsible manner.” To this I have an inclination to say, “Bully for you. Don’t tell me, show me.” For he has not announced any changes to plans during Ramadan, even as others have called for limiting Muslims on the Temple Mount during that time.
What is expected of you, citizens of Israel? Alertness and responsibility. Open your eyes. Whoever has a license to carry a weapon, this is the time to carry it.” It should be noted that the Be’ersheva terrorist was taken out by civilians, and already I have been aware of an inclination on the part of some citizens who had never before thought of carrying a gun to acquire a license. (Emphasis added)