By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Israelis usually distinguish between security and politics. Even political foes will support those in power when it comes to defending the country and its citizens. If they disagree, it may be because they believe that the measures aren’t harsh enough. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu now in opposition, has become something of a spokesman for this argument. Many Israelis would like to see him in charge.
I don’t hear much criticism about what the security forces are doing when dealing with attackers. Only disinterested or perhaps hostile observers abroad will speak about or allude to disproportionate measures by the Israelis. I haven’t heard many people here ask why the security forces don’t aim only at the legs of the attackers.
The Israeli consensus is understandable. When you and yours are at risk, you support protective measures, however harsh. This isn’t a time for just counseling perpetrators, even though Israel does provide full medical care to injured insurgents; it restores them to health before taking them to prison.
It’s different when it comes to the political debate. The basic criticism of the Netanyahu government by the Left (what’s left of it) is that the prime minister and his even more hawkish colleagues aren’t doing enough to help bring about the so-called two-state solution. The prime minister is accused of making vacuous statements about peace, but the conduct of his government suggests the opposite, manifest for example in expanding settlements and making too much of Jewish access to the Temple Mount.
Of course, the government will tell you that the fault is entirely on the other side. The Palestinian Authority, we hear often, either because it’s powerless or obdurate doesn’t want peace and it doesn’t want a Jewish state. It’ll settle for a Palestinian state with a Jewish minority, but no more than that. Hamas, that rulers Gaza, with its presence in the West Bank, as well as the many ISIS supporters, wouldn’t settle even for that.
Critics of the Palestinians will also point to the text books and teaching methods in their schools which instill hatred of Jews. The presence of Israeli soldiers in the territories and the lowly jobs which is the lot of Palestinians from the West Bank fortunate enough to get employment by Israelis may reinforce their hatred of Jews.
The seemingly desperate acts by young Palestinians who stone, stab and now also shoot Jews is said to be a manifestation of the fury and the frustration. Some appear to prefer a certain “heroic” death to the miserable lives they now lead. Security and politics remain inseparable, alas.
This means that the solution must be political, not military. It’s quite possible that with time and progressively harsher measures – including de facto re-dividing Jerusalem by putting up barriers around Arab neighbourhoods – Israel will quell this rebellion for a while before something else and perhaps even more vicious takes it place. But only a political settlement can bring about peace.
It’s difficult to be optimistic and it’s not helpful to put the blame on one side or the other. However, the stronger side can afford to take more risks – and that’s Israel. Instead of always telling what’s wrong with our government we should urge it to take risks to help Palestinians out of their fury and their frustration and bring security to our people. Unfortunately, I don’t hear many Israelis pursuing this line.