What works

I’m calling for a new approach.

Being the “responsible adult” doesn’t work.

Hoping that some day they will come to their senses and understand that coexistence is more profitable than endless war doesn’t work.

Thinking that “after all, they are human beings too and that if we treat them fairly they will act like human beings” doesn’t work.

Providing them with electricity so they can make rockets to try to kill us with doesn’t work.

Keeping their tribal enemies from killing them doesn’t work.

Paying them doesn’t work.

Giving them weapons “to fight terrorism” doesn’t work.

Respecting their religious rights (to behave like 7th century barbarians) doesn’t work.

Treating their corrupt inciter-in-chief like a president doesn’t work.

Destroying our villages and kicking our people out because they claim the land (they claim everything) doesn’t work.

Punishing our soldiers for shooting theirs doesn’t work.

Ransoming hostages doesn’t work.

Not having a death penalty for terrorist murder doesn’t work.

These things don’t work for several reasons. They don’t work because of the honor/shame culture of our enemies; they don’t work because Islam tells them that they really ought to be on top, and Jewish sovereignty is a perversion of the moral order; and they don’t work because they believe in a historical narrative that is false from start to finish.

We have been trying the old way since before the founding of the state. They have never accepted our presence in the land, and they have always murdered us (sometimes more frequently, sometimes less).  Now, thanks to our own idiocy, they have set up an indoctrination regime that produces child soldiers that they send to butcher our families. They have created a generation of creatures that will slit the throat of a 4-month old baby or a 70-year old grandfather, and take pride in their work: the Arafat generation. And their parents, too, are proud.

The more we talk to them and try to reason with them, try to meet their demands, the more it feeds their fury. Why should they talk to dogs, pigs and monkeys? There is nothing to talk about, especially not with the Arafat generation.

The more concessions we make, the more they think they are winning and the harder they fight. It’s simple operant conditioning: every time they are violent, we give them something. Violence works for them.

So what works for us? First of all, a fundamental change in our point of view: stop treating them as another people more or less like us, with whom we must find a way to coexist. Coexistence is impossible. It’s not up to us; that is who they are. All we can do is win or lose.

What works is to see them as an implacable enemy that must be defeated by any means necessary.

What works is to stop talking and start fighting. Cut them off from everything we supply them, money, food, water, electricity, communication, transport. Take control of our capital and our holy places (today much of Jerusalem is in their hands). Take control of all of our country. If they send their soldiers against us, even their child soldiers, kill them.

If we’ve conditioned them to behave violently by rewarding violent behavior with concessions, we can extinguish this behavior too. Take away the positive reinforcement and replace it with punishment.

Nobody wants to do this. It’s hard, it’s cruel, and we would rather keep busy with our jobs and our families. We really don’t like war and killing, despite what our enemies say (as they project their own desires and behavior on us).

The alternative is to keep on pretending that we can reach an accommodation with them, because after all they are human too, and so on. We can keep trying to satisfy them. We can rationalize: who really cares about the Temple Mount except religious fanatics? Why shouldn’t we cede more and more land in Judea and Samaria to them? Yes, they are unreasonable, but we have to be the rational ones. After all, we are much stronger than they are. Aren’t we?

This is the path we’ve taken for the past 100 years, more or less, and the path we confirmed in 1993 when we signed the cursed Oslo agreements that caused the death of thousands of Israelis and gave birth to the Arafat generation. It is the path prescribed by European Jew-haters who even today support our enemies in every possible way short of bombing Tel Aviv.

It doesn’t work. What works is to fight for our land, the land that truly belongs to us, the land that they are trying to take with their lying “narrative” and their murderous violence. What works is to undo the damage done in 1967 when Moshe Dayan stupidly gave the Temple Mount to the Arabs, as well as the catastrophe of 1993.

What works is to stop pretending, stop submitting to threats and violence, and start standing up against our enemies. It’s a big job, and we have to start somewhere. So let it be the Temple Mount.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism | 4 Comments

Pragmatism on the Temple Mount

The Temple Mount crisis is a perfect example of what has been called “Israel Derangement Syndrome:”

Arab Muslim terrorists murder a couple of Israeli police officers with guns they took onto the Mount. The terrorists are shot dead.

Israel takes the most minimal security measures, closing the site for a short time while they search it, and installing metal detectors (like the one I go through at the mall every day when I pick up my newspaper) and security cameras.

Palestinian Arabs and pretty much the whole Muslim world go insane, staging violent riots that include attempts to murder more policemen (which end in death for 3 rioters). The waqf that controls the Temple Mount orders Muslims to refuse to go through the detectors and to pray in the street outside.

A 19-year old terrorist leaves a Facebook post in which he explains that he is compelled to act as a result of the humiliation visited on his people by the Jews, butchers a 70-year old man and his two children, and seriously wounds his wife. Only the prompt arrival of an armed off-duty soldier prevents the terrorist from trying to murder the man’s daughter-in-law and 5 grandchildren. The terrorist is lightly wounded and is shown grinning from his hospital bed (where he is being treated by Israeli doctors).

Another terrorist stabs an Israeli Arab bus driver in a shwarma restaurant in Petach Tikva, mistaking him for a Jew. After he is subdued by several citizens (including one who hits him with a wooden pizza tray), the terrorist tells police that “he did it for al-Aqsa.”

A 17-year old Jordanian moving furniture in the Israeli embassy in Amman stabs a security guard in the stomach with a screwdriver. The guard shoots and kills him in self defense (and also accidentally kills another person in the room). Anti-Israel agitation in Jordan is at a high level, with a major demonstration in Amman taking place two days before the incident. The Jordanians refuse to release the guard despite his diplomatic immunity, and he is only freed after a high-level agreement that involves American officials and includes the removal of the metal detectors and cameras at the Temple Mount.

Israel removes the metal detectors and cameras, but increases police presence. Riots continue and the waqf maintains its boycott on the grounds that everything must be returned exactly to the state it was in before the murder of the policemen that started it all, or it will consider the “status quo” breached.

During all of this, the international media have consistently presented the issues on a spectrum ranging from “it’s a cycle of violence” to “Israel is guilty of terrorism against Palestinians.” Headlines like the Guardian’s “Six dead as Israeli-Palestinian tensions boil over” suggest that Arabs killed while throwing firebombs at police are equivalent to Jews stabbed at their dinner table. NPR explains that the rioting did not stop after the detectors and cameras were taken down because “plans for a new security system have prompted more protests.” How dare we make plans to protect ourselves!

Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, members of the Islamic Movement in Israel and some Israeli Arab members of the Knesset blame Israel for the violence, with some of the Arab MKs’ statements rising to the level of incitement to violence.

Rallies and demonstrations in favor of the Arabs are held all over the world, many in Muslim countries but also in South Africa, the UK and the US. Israel is found guilty again of “provocations.”

Nobody seems to notice, or care, that in every case the violence has been initiated by Arabs against Israelis. Israeli actions have been limited to self defense, and very limited self-defense at that. From the beginning, Israel has projected weakness. Rather than try to assert Israeli control over the site, PM Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have said over and over that there is no intention to change the “status quo,” the humiliating unwritten agreement that we imposed on ourselves in 1967 that gives “religious control” of the site to the waqf and specifies that while non-Muslims are permitted to visit the Temple Mount, only Muslims may pray there.

After various officials said that the metal detectors and cameras would remain in place no matter what, they were removed in response to what was arguably a hostage situation in Jordan.

The removal of the metal detectors was a serious mistake. Although it is far from the first time that Israel folded in the face of threats of Arab violence or American pressure – often, as probably happened in this case, applied at the same time – the messages sent by this incident were all the worst possible ones:

  • Israel indicated that she would not, now or in the future, try to readjust the unbalanced “status quo,” which flies in the face of the accepted principle that all religions should have access to their holy places. The “access” granted to non-Muslims is far inferior in every way to that of Muslims, and this reinforces the Muslim belief that they deserve more rights than non-Muslims.
  • The one who controls access to a place is the owner of a place. The abortion of the attempt by Israel to control access confirmed the Arabs in their belief that they are the owners of the Temple Mount, and indeed all of the city and ultimately the country.
  • The fact that violence and hostage-taking caused Israel to immediately give in despite the repeated assertions of Israeli officials that they would not, proves that the strategy of violent “resistance to occupation” combined with international pressure and exploitation of every opportunity (the incident in Amman) works. It proves to them that if they only persevere, their dream of expelling the Jews is not impossible to achieve.

PM Netanyahu and most of his cabinet understand this. They also understand the issues relating to the religious and national aspects of the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs. They understand that nothing in the Middle East is more important than symbolism, and they understand that control of the Temple Mount is a stand-in for sovereignty in Jerusalem. So if they understand all this, why did they fold?

There is a problem for leaders of democratic countries, which is like the similar problem faced by business executives who have to answer to stockholders. In business, there is tremendous pressure to meet next quarter’s goals, even if the company’s future suffers. In politics there is always the next election to worry about, and there is pressure to deliver peace and quiet now. There are rioting Arabs on TV every night and there is a hostage in Amman, he has a family, and these are problems that have to be solved now. Possibly the long-term consequences of solving them in the easiest possible way will not be so good, but they will be dealt with later. The can is kicked down the road.

Today’s Israeli leaders, like most in the West, are pragmatists. They do what works, and ideology is much less important than in the past. Bibi’s pragmatism would be foreign to Begin or Ben-Gurion. Not that they couldn’t compromise their ideologies to some extent when they had no alternative, but because ideology always guided their actions toward long-term goals. They had a direction and strong (although different) visions of what the state of Israel should be. Today things are different. The Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, the head of the Shabak, the IDF Chief of Staff, and the police chief all have their priorities. Within the framework of those priorities, they solve problems. Perhaps they are too busy to worry about visions.

In this case the government chose to be submissive and to ignore the humiliation inherent in its posture, because that seemed to be the quickest and least costly way to solve today’s problems. But at best it is a short-term solution, and even that is not certain, since disturbances are continuing despite our backing down.

The  Arabs have a vision for the future, and although they have so far lacked the means to make it real, they have the will to do so. We have more power today than we’ve had since the days of King David¸ but our national will is fragmented. We have the ability to create the future, but we don’t agree on what future we want to create. So we elect pragmatic politicians, who know how to solve problems.

Is this crisis just another bump in the road, or is it a turning point? I am not sure, but I’m certain that we would be better served by leaders that not only can solve problems, but who have a clear idea of our ultimate destination.

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Politics, Terrorism | 3 Comments

“Electric gates” and unspeakable horror

Friday night, a Jewish family was butchered by a terrorist who came into their home while they were finishing their Shabbat dinner. You can read the details here. They will sound familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to Jewish-Arab relations over the last 100 years or so.

The 19-year old terrorist wrote a farewell post on his Facebook account – he expected to die in the attack, but unfortunately did not – in which he explained that he did it in part because “they are desecrating the al-Aqsa mosque.”

As I write, rioting continues at the Temple Mount and various other locations in Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria. At least 4 Arabs have been killed. Despite what you might read in Ha’aretz, this generally happens because they are throwing firebombs or otherwise endangering the lives of policemen, and not because they are “nonviolently demonstrating.”

All this because the Israel police set up metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount used by Muslims (the single gate Jews are allowed to use has had a metal detector for years), in response to the murder of two Druze policemen last week, in which guns were brought into the al-Aqsa mosque.

The Muslim waqf that Israel stupidly allows to administer the site announced that it would not permit Muslims to pass through the “electric gates,” closed mosques throughout Jerusalem and called on all Muslims to come to pray at al-Aqsa. Both the official Palestinian Authority media and Hamas have called for action to “protect al-Aqsa,” in precisely the same way as al-Husseini sparked pogroms in 1929, and Arafat and Abbas have done whenever they want chaos and death. They have always gotten it, and they are getting it this time.

Here are some observations:

  1. Israeli officials apparently debated whether to keep the metal detectors in place. Supposedly –this kind of report is never properly sourced – the Shabak (the internal security service) wanted to remove them and the police wanted to keep them. Why was this discussion made public at all?
  2. This dispute is not about the metal detectors themselves, which are in use everywhere in the world (in part thanks to the activities of “Palestinian” terrorists), including Mecca and Medina. The waqf has already announced that no additional security measures at the site will be acceptable to it. The issue is a matter of religious principle: can a Muslim allow a Jew (or a Druze) to tell him when or where he can worship? Anyone with even the sketchiest knowledge of Islam knows the answer.
  3. The fact that two Israeli police officers were murdered at the site last week with weapons that were brought into the compound through a gate without a metal detector is irrelevant to the Arabs. See 2 above.
  4. The struggle over this principle is also a struggle over sovereignty at the site. If Israel removes the metal detectors, it is equivalent to saying that Israel is not the sovereign power here. If we back down at what is the holiest place for Jews in the world, what will protect our sovereignty in the rest of Jerusalem or indeed the rest of the country?
  5. The so-called “status quo” that the Arab leadership claims is under attack by Israel has changed multiple times since 1967 – always in the direction of fewer rights for non-Muslims. The only way to stop the pressure is for Israel to stop giving in to it.
  6. The fact that the Halamish terrorist was not killed at the scene, but was shown grinning from the hospital bed where Israeli doctors saved his life, represents an enormous loss of honor for Israel and the Jewish people. Yes, I know, by Western (Christian) standards, the fact that we do this makes us enlightened and merciful, but our enemies do not apply those standards. They are encouraged by what they understand as our weakness, stupidity and cowardice, and there will be more, not fewer, attacks as a result of this. Do you understand? More innocent Jews (or Druze) will die.

What people outside of the region (and, unfortunately, some Israelis) do not understand is that this flareup – and indeed, the whole conflict – is not about the “interests” of Israel or the Arabs. It is about religious rights and honor. Pragmatic Israeli governments have been sacrificing these principles for years in the hope of achieving peace and reconciliation with the Arabs, while not understanding that their policies have destroyed whatever respect the Arabs may have had for us, and damaged our power of deterrence against their violence. And they didn’t make Europe or the US State Department like us any better, either.

Only a concerted effort to restore our honor will have a chance of restoring deterrence. So I suggest we start with the Halamish terrorist: put him on trial by a military court – make the trial be as quick as possible – and take him out and shoot him. Then demolish his house and expel his family, who have expressed support for his actions, from the country. All this should take less than a week.

And keep the metal detectors.

Posted in Islam, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism | 2 Comments

The three Jewish-Arab conflicts

The recent terror attack at the Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem reminded me, as if I needed reminding, of the complexity of the Jewish-Arab conflict in the land of Israel.

There are actually three separate conflicts raging in the same place, involving more or less the same people. They have distinct objectives, but they are intertwined in a complex way, which is detrimental to ending any of them.

The first is the political conflict between the State of Israel and the PLO in its embodiment as the Palestinian Authority (PA). This is a disagreement over borders, settlements, security, and other geopolitical issues.

The second is the national conflict between the Jewish people and those Arabs whose self-defining national narrative is that of “Palestinians.” This is a disagreement that can be characterized as an argument over the historical title to the land between the river and the sea.

The third is the religious conflict between Jews and Muslims. This stems from the Islamic ideas that Muslims are superior to non-Muslims (especially Jews), that they should live under shari’a (which implies Muslim sovereignty), and that land that has once been Muslim must not be allowed to remain in the hands of infidels.

The various attempts to end the conflict have mostly focused on the political conflict, and to a great extent ignored the national and religious ones. This confuses people who don’t understand or aren’t aware of the latter two, which in my opinion are far more important than the political one.

So, for example, when Yasser Arafat walked away from a political compromise at Camp David/Taba that was unprecedented in its generosity, US President Clinton was shocked. But the compromise did not include recognition of a right of return for Arab refugees, and thus represented an defeat in the national conflict that could not possibly be accepted by Arafat.

The Arab position in the national conflict is based on the Palestinian narrative, in which the “Palestinian people” are a distinct people who have been living for many generations, even from biblical times, in the land. They had a flourishing civilization which was usurped by Zionist colonizers, who invaded Palestine and dispossessed the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants in 1948. The continued occupation – which includes the territory on both sides of the Green Line – is a continued besmirching of Palestinian honor.

This story is entirely false, but that doesn’t matter, because the Arabs firmly believe it, and – of great importance in an honor-shame culture – much of the rest of the world believes it too. The implication of the story is that the “Palestinian people” had their most important possession, their land, taken from them by force – and they were unable to prevent it. Not only that but (and here we see the interplay between the national and religious conflicts) it was done by the despicable Jews. Only a complete reversal of the act of dispossession, in which Palestinians violently dispossess the Jews, can begin to restore Palestinian honor.

The religious and national conflicts are intertwined. The original Hamas charter refers to the land between the river and the sea as an “Islamic waqf,” that is, as inalienably Islamic property, once governed by Muslims and now in the hands of infidels. The imperative to regain this land for religious reasons is thus added to the need to do so in order to restore national honor.

The conflict that is going on right now at the Temple Mount is over both religion and national honor. Of course there is no Islamic issue with metal detectors, which are in use in Mecca during the Haj, along with even more invasive security measures. However, the idea that Jews (or non-Muslim Israelis like Druze police officers) can decide who is allowed to enter the site damages the honor of the Arabs, both as Muslims and as Palestinians. The fact that these metal detectors were introduced in response to a brutal murder is not relevant for Palestinians who believe that violent ‘resistance to occupation’ is fully justified, and for Muslims who believe that jihad for the sake of recovering land that was once dar al-islam is praiseworthy.

In other words, the murder of the two policemen is not seen as immoral, but Jewish control of Muslim Palestinians is.

There is no way to separate these conflicts. Not only that, but the tools that would be employed for solving the political one – negotiations, compromise, concessions on both sides – are precisely the wrong ones to use for conflicts based on honor and religion. In the latter cases, concessions are seen as admissions of weakness, a reason to push harder. So it isn’t puzzling that Arafat responded to the failed Camp David negotiations by launching the Second Intifada; he saw the Clinton and Barak offers as signaling their desperation, and expected that more violence would bring about the collapse of the tottering colonialist empire (despite all his years of trying to kill them, he never understood Israelis).

In pre-modern days, national and religious conflicts were easy to solve. The side with military superiority would drive out, kill or enslave the enemy population. In the today’s enlightened world, it’s not so easy (although third-world actors still do it under the Western radar whenever possible). This is surely the option the Arabs would take if Israel were weaker, but Israel is too Western and too modern to behave like that.

Sometimes what appears to be human progress is actually the opposite. Contemporary diplomacy can only solve political conflicts, not ones about national honor or religion. So they go on forever.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Islam, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism | 2 Comments

Observations on a murder

Three Muslim Arabs, who in this case are citizens of Israel, murder two Israeli Druze policemen at a gate to the Temple Mount, shout allahu akbar, then run into the Temple Mount plaza where they engage in a firefight with more police and are killed.

The Israeli government orders the Temple Mount closed temporarily, while it installs metal detectors at some of the gates and searches the area for weapons (knives, fireworks, slingshots, batons, etc., are found). Metal detectors were used at the gates in the past, but were removed in 2000 when Jordan protested.

PM Netanyahu says publicly as well as privately to Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, that the “status quo” – the arrangement that the Jordanian religious waqf administer the site, Jewish visits are limited and Jews are not allowed to pray there – will not be changed.

The site is partially reopened. The waqf, the Jordanian government, Mahmoud Abbas and others protest. Waqf officials and  many Palestinians refuse to go through security checks. “The Jews have no rights whatsoever to this mosque – it is for Muslims only. We will not accept being checked every time we want to get inside. We are asking to go back to normal and enter freely, as it was three day [sic] ago,” says Taleb Abu Arar, an Arab Member of the Knesset.

So here is what I think:

First, the Druze are again at the forefront of our struggle for security. The Druze are a distinct people living in northern Israel, Lebanon, Syria and other places in the Middle East, who follow an esoteric religion that includes elements of Islam, Judaism and others. Israeli Druze include cabinet ministers, judges and senior officers in the IDF. They often serve in the toughest combat positions in the IDF and police, and have given their lives in disproportionate numbers. The relationship between the Jewish state and the Druze people is an example of what is possible when disparate groups treat each other with honor and respect.

Second, the Muslims are again displaying their deep conviction that they will never be satisfied with anything less than the dominant position anywhere they live. Despite the unprecedented (and astonishingly stupid) generosity of the state of Israel which allowed them to control the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, after their defeat in 1967, the Muslim Arabs of Israel and Jordan have always pushed to return the situation what it was before, when only Muslims were permitted on the site. The so-called “status quo” has actually proven to be a slippery slope in which non-Muslims have more and more lost their rights, as Israel has bowed to escalating threats of violence from Muslims.

Third, the fact that they have the chutzpah to actually object to metal detectors at the gates they use to enter the site (Jews only have one gate, and it has a serious security check, including a metal detector) after a murder has been committed is instructive. It illustrates the degree to which the conflict is not based on rational considerations. Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, in a surprising development, did condemn the attack – but he also demanded that the Temple Mount be immediately reopened for Muslim worship, and his Fatah party called for Muslims to go in great numbers to the site to “break the siege.” Fatah even rebroadcast an Abbas speech from 2014 that explicitly calls for violent ‘resistance’, just in case anyone might actually believe that he preferred a peaceful response.

This attack and the Arab reaction illustrate something significant for our long-term security. It is that there are at least three Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. The least important is the one the peace processors keep trying to solve: borders, security and settlements. A second conflict is the violent struggle of the Palestinian Arabs to regain their lost honor.  Last, but definitely not least, there is the religious conflict.

Every time someone comes up with a proposed solution for borders/security/settlements, honor and religion pop up to torpedo it.

The conflict over borders, security and settlements could be solved by negotiations, which are called in Hebrew masa umatan, give and take. We give them land for a state, they agree to demilitarize it, and so on. But attempts to solve the first conflict exacerbate the second one, honor. Anything we give them comprises a loss of honor for us, a sign that we are too weak to hold on to it and a signal to push harder, demand more, and employ more violence (consider the decision to give the Temple Mount in 1967 to the waqf).

The third conflict, over religion, can never be solved. Islam will still be expansionist Islam regardless of what we do. Israel will forever be dar al-harb unless it comes under Muslim control. Our response has to be to protect ourselves, push Muslim extremists back from our borders, oppose sponsors of Islamic aggression like Iran and Saudi Arabia, support countervailing forces like the Druze and Christians, and keep the Muslim population within our state from threatening our own religious rights and sovereignty.

The shout of allahu akbar and the willingness of the terrorists to die – three fighters with improvised weapons stand no chance in this heavily guarded spot – marked the murder of the policemen as a religious and honor-related act even more than a nationalistic one. Closing the Mount, even if only temporarily, was the best possible response. Needless to say, we must not give in on the question of the metal detectors.

Is this the start of yet another period of increased violence and terrorism? That will depend, I think, on our ability to avoid confusion between the different conflicts. This isn’t the place for compromise, but rather to stand our ground and not allow any further slippage in the not-so-static “status quo.”

Posted in Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Terrorism | 3 Comments