In Response to Terrorism, In Honor of Our Fallen

by Paul Rotenberg

Everything indicates that in the aftermath of a series of terror attacks Israel still insists on seeing terror as transactional.

They attack us, we respond “the same amount” and the Israeli leadership is very careful as to where to apply this exact amount of response. Israel will never be free of terror if Israel responds on a transactional basis, just as Israel will never be free of rockets if the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister keep announcing how bad it will be for the terrorists if they send one more rocket, but it’s never “too bad”. This has been the approach of successive Israeli “leadership” for the past 20 years or more. Gallant just announced that “Anyone who attempts even the slightest harm will be brought to justice”. MK Shuster said “when necessary, we know how to attack”. For the terrorist these responses are all the same as Ariel Sharon’s statement upon ordering all Jews removed from Gaza against the warnings of those who insisted that once the Gaza communities were no longer there to target with rockets the terrorists would turn the rockets on the Gaza periphery. “Oy Vavoy to them if they shoot one rocket” he said and then nothing happened. “oy Vavoy” is an acceptable price to the terrorists, as is being “brought to justice” and “we know how to attack” if “when necessary” never happens. The Israeli leadership is leaving it up to the terrorists to decide whether the price is reasonable and worth paying and whether Israel is more talk or more walk. For Israel these responses are deadly.

As a sovereign nation, with the responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens, there is only one price option for each life – priceless.

Anything else shows not only a serious lack of self-respect but also a lack of belief in the sovereignty of Israel, the kind of lack of belief and self-respect that leads others to believe there is a lower price for the lives of Israelis and consider whether they are willing to pay it. This does not just put Israelis at risk, it costs lives, both of Israeli citizens and Israeli soldiers who are forced into dangerous situations that should not have arisen.

To be clear, when Israeli leadership does not appropriately respond to terror attacks, it costs Israeli lives.

Furthermore, anything less than priceless would be a price assigned by the terrorists within the terrorists’ value system, a pricing structure which includes community adulation and an eternal place in Islamic heaven. This is not a value system a civilized country can countenance. That reduces the options to two, Israel sets the price or allows the terrorists to set the price, the terrorists will choose to pay or not pay the assigned price. There are no other options.

Ah, you might say these are not the only factors in making this decision, this is far more complex. Firstly, the international media, the UN and almost every other nation will condemn Israel. That condemnation is the same whether the response is deemed to be proportional, an entirely undefined and unspecified term, or determined on a transactional basis, equally undefinable and as we have seen, Israel gets condemned either way. There are always those who will very authoritatively state that the response is not proportional and even among “friends”, like the USA  who allow that Israel is allowed to defend itself, the statement is invariably balanced by the opposing voice from within the same source to placate Israel’s enemies. Even-handedness and all.

Secondly, while the negative response is always the same, regardless of the nature and the extent of Israel’s response to terror, the positive response varies only in one place, among the terrorists and the Islamic nations that surround Israel. As much as they are encouraged in their terror by Israel’s lack of response, they equally respect a response and grudgingly respect Israel when Israel responds appropriately, with strength. We have seen former enemies turn to Israel in feigned friendship as the result of an appropriate, self-respecting, response to terror and threats. Everyone understands strength and everyone wants to be on the side of the winner. However, Israel must understand this friendship will only last as long as the strength lasts because these strategic alliances are only based on common interests, not common goals.

Thirdly, it is entirely delusional to think that there will be a good result when the terrorists are left with any choice at all. Terrorists’ choices are not made within a value system that has any commonality with civilized society. If they chose terror how do we respond to the social construct that we can not wrap our heads around, one that promises eternal rewards for horrific acts? By responding to the culture, more than the terrorist. The terrorist, who is willing to be dead as a consequence of his action, is acting on behalf of that culture, not for himself. How many years has David Bedein written about the textbooks that call for killing Jews? How many years has Shomer HaChadash had to stand in for the absent police and army? How many infractions does Regavim have to point to before the court and the government will uphold Israeli Law? How many examples do I need to bring? Where is Israel’s self-respect?

Israel must unapologetically support Israel in the face of the corrupt PA leaders who created a culture of terror and use terror as power to achieve their goals in the absence of any real power. Remove them, remove their access to the tools of power – finance, media, water, electric power and mobility, take away their ability to pretend to have power through a terror infrastructure. Take away their ability to take away Israeli lives. Statistically, under the political leadership that promotes it, less than 10% of any society is willing to engage in violence, there rest are willing to follow. Absent terror leadership, ideally there will be no terrorists and ideally there will be peaceful community infrastructure. Practically, they must know that terrorism will reap no rewards, no eternal rewards, no community adulation and no celebration, because if there is terror there will be no community.

Similarly, Israel’s response must be such that the entire world understands that Israel values the life of every one of its citizens beyond limits. Just as saving one life is saving an entire world, taking one life is taking an entire world, and if you take a world from us we will take your world from you – all of it. This will be an unrestrained blow, the only option Israel has. It is not unfair, it is not unjust, it is simply the only response a civilized country can have to terrorism, and the terrorist and their entire community must know it, because then they will fear it, so that Israel need not fear terrorism.

Maybe the response to terror is transactional, and the prices, as Sadat commented before meeting Begin are very high. We are waiting to see if the Israeli government understands the value the lives of Lucy, Rina and Maia, and the life of Alessandro. Four worlds. Will the terrorists pay?

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