I’ve been writing regularly for fifteen years, and to my very great sorrow, there is one story that I find myself writing over and over. Here is the 19 December 2021 version:
On Thursday night, three yeshiva students were riding in a car near Homesh, which is in Samaria northwest of Shechem (the site of the biblical story of the rape of Dina and the “disproportionate” reaction of her brothers Shimon and Levi). Arab terrorists fired on the car from ambush with automatic weapons, killing Yehuda Dimentman, 25 years old, married and the father of an 9-month old child, and wounding two others.
Last night, the terrorists that carried out the attack and those that helped them were arrested in a joint operation of the IDF, the Border Police, and the Shabak (general security agency). What this usually means is that they were taken into custody by a special unit of the Border Police known as the Yamam, on intelligence provided by the Shabak, with security support from the IDF.
The process of identifying, locating, and capturing terrorists has been developed to an extent probably unmatched anywhere else in the world. The technological and operational abilities of Israel’s security forces are extraordinary. But after this point, Israel’s ability to deal with terrorism falls apart.
When Yamam operators call out a terror suspect, there are several possible outcomes. Sometimes they surrender (one officer told me that “sometimes the tough terrorists cry for their mothers”), and sometimes they open fire. Almost invariably, the latter scenario ends with the terrorists dead and the officers unhurt. The officers are extremely professional and don’t shoot when it isn’t necessary. Lately it seems that the terrorists have come to understand that, and give up peacefully.
And then? Yehuda Dimentman is dead, his wife is a young widow and his child does not have a father. His murderers will be tried, convicted and sent to prison, probably with life sentences. This usually will be reduced to 20-25 years, with eligibility for parole after two-thirds of the sentence has been served (multiple murderers usually get multiple consecutive life sentences). This, of course, assumes that there is no “prisoner exchange” – which would better be called a ransoming of hostages – beforehand.
There have been several such exchanges, with the best known being the 2011 trade of 1027 Arab prisoners for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. One of the released prisoners was Ahlam al-Tamimi, who masterminded the 2001 Sbarro Pizza bombing in which 17 Israelis died and numerous others were injured. Tamimi was sentenced to 16 life sentences (one of her victims died only recently). Although she is wanted for murder by the US (several of her victims were American citizens), Jordan refuses to honor its extradition treaty, and she remains free as a Jordanian media celebrity. Most security prisoners believe that they, too, will not need to finish their sentences.
While they are in prison, Arab security prisoners enjoy conditions far better than most Jewish criminals. They are housed together with other members of their factions, to avoid friction. Prison authorities allow the prisoners to be more or less autonomous, negotiating with the leaders of the factions – who are essentially the commanders of the terror groups – for the conditions in the prison. In the most disgraceful and embarrassing incident in the history of the Prison Service, female guards were deliberately ordered to work in areas near “important” prisoners who then sexually assaulted them.
As is well known, the Palestinian Authority (PA) pays generous salaries to the families of prisoners, with a sliding scale based on the length of their sentences. In the case of the bombing of the Sbarro Pizza parlor, as of 2019, mastermind Ahlam Tamimi, the family of suicide bomber Izz Al-Din Al-Masri, and bomb maker Abdullah Barghouti, had received a total of $910,823 for their bloody work. The payments haven’t stopped. Although the US passed a law – the Taylor Force Act, named after an American murdered by terrorists in Israel – the Biden Administration has resumed aid to the PA. And although the Israeli Knesset passed a similar law, requiring that the amount of such payments be deducted from tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the PA, the government decided to make up the amount deducted with a “loan” to the PA!
When terrorists are released, they return home to a hero’s welcome. The Palestinian media and school systems present them, especially the ones who were “martyred” in the commission of their acts, as examples for young people to follow. Indeed, dying while trying to murder Jews has become the most popular form of suicide for mentally unstable Arab teens or women who have “dishonored” their families and have no place to go.
Although the houses of terrorists are sometimes destroyed, the Supreme Court often refuses to allow house demolitions. And when it is allowed, the Palestinian Authority provides a new house. Attempts to expel the families of terrorists, take away work permits from relatives, or close roads to towns where terrorists live have been stymied by legal objections as “collective punishment.”
I ask our leaders and legal scholars: where do you think we live, in Scandinavia, Switzerland, or Canada? What message are we sending to the terrorists when we make their jail time as pleasant as possible, even including providing girls for them to abuse? What do they learn when we tell them that we refuse to finance terror, and then “loan” them $500 million to make up for payments withheld? The PA is in essence Fatah, the movement of Yasser Arafat, dedicated to our destruction. Hamas is radical Islamist movement, with the same objective. Why do we negotiate with them, transfer money for them, provide electricity and water for them, do anything at all except fight them and kill them?
Arab terrorists are attacking us on the roads on a daily basis, throwing large rocks and firebombs that can and have killed drivers and passengers, laying ambushes and trying to lynch us, and from time to time spraying us with bullets as happened to Yehuda Dimentman. They stab us in the streets of our capital city, claim our holy sites as their own, teach their children to murder, and always, above all, look for soft targets. This behavior is familiar to anyone who has read the Bible: it is the behavior of Amalek.
They are our enemies, but we have forgotten what an enemy is. We have forgotten that when you are faced with an enemy, you kill him or he kills you. It is not as complicated as people think. We are physically strong enough to win, to crush Hamas and the PLO, and expel them from our homeland. What we lack is the will, not only the will to crush our enemies for once and for all, but even the will to execute murderers and punish the families and clans that support them.
This isn’t Scandinavia, nor Switzerland, nor Canada. If we want to survive here, we need to regain the respect that we have lost as a result of our spiritual weakness. How do we do that? A step at a time. Start with executing terrorist murderers, then punish their families, their clans, their hometowns. Make terrorism more painful for them than for us. Respond disproportionately to provocations like rocket attacks. Don’t make threats that aren’t carried out. Above all, remember why we are here – and the consequences of giving up.