Monday, July 4, 2016

Preventive, not punitive measures - Yoav Limor




by Yoav Limor


The problem is that Israel cannot deal terrorism a clear-cut, one-time decisive blow. All it can do is use the tried and true carrots-and-sticks approach: penalizing terror sympathizers and rewarding those who fight it and, in the absence of a diplomatic horizon, waging a war on Palestinian incitement.


As hard as it is to admit, the options available to Israel in the wake of last week's deadly terrorist attacks in the Hebron sector are limited. In the absence of a direct link between incidents, or a clear directing hand to target, all Israel can do is spare no effort to thwart new terrorist attacks during the last leg of Ramadan.

Since Friday, the IDF has focused its activity on Hebron, the epicenter of last week's terror surge. Hebron has always been a hotbed of radical terrorist activity in Judea and Samaria. The combination of a religious, Hamas-affiliated town and the constant friction between Jews and Palestinians has proven volatile time and again, inspiring countless terrorist attacks, each sprouting its own string of copycats. 

This was most likely the case last week as well, as there is seemingly nothing linking the bloodthirsty youth who stabbed to death Hallel Yaffa Ariel, 13, in her home in Kiryat Arba on Thursday and the terrorist cell that gunned down Rabbi Michael Mark on Friday, other than their desire to exploit the volatile atmosphere.

The steps taken by the military since Friday seek to separate Palestinian civilians from terrorists and zero in on targets, thus foiling future attacks. Disrupting Hebron's routine is also meant to rattle the situation on the ground in a way that could produce new and valid intelligence that would further facilitate counterterrorism measures.

This is doubly important ahead of this week's Laylat al-Qadr ("night of power") and Eid al-Fitr ("festival of breaking of the fast"), which mark the end of Ramadan. These two festivals have always been volatile, and having an armed terror cell, which has already crossed the psychological threshold of killing Jews, running around free, will only make it doubly tense. 

Contrary to what some politicians would have you believe, IDF activity in Hebron is not punitive in nature. Israel has gone to considerable lengths to ease the Palestinians' lives during Ramadan, a move backed by -- until last Thursday -- an ebbing wave of terrorism.

Still, Ariel and Mark's horrific murders meant that the public is not interested in statistics indicating an overall decrease in terrorist attacks. The public expects the government to take serious countermeasures. 

The problem is that Israel cannot deal terrorism a clear-cut, one-time decisive blow. All it can do is use the tried and true carrots-and-sticks approach: penalizing terror sympathizers and rewarding those who fight it and, in the absence of a diplomatic horizon, waging a war on Palestinian incitement. 

The various suggestions made over the weekend by government ministers, such as the expulsion of terrorists families or blocking access to social media in Palestinian cities, fail to meet legal and practical standards, and all they do is inflame the situation. It seems unlikely that extensive settlement construction will follow either, as Israel has no interest in evoking harsh international criticism.

As things stand, Israel will continue its painstaking war on terror, focusing on counterterrorism measures aimed first and foremost at preventing any escalation from igniting the southern sector. 

Friday's rocket fire at Sderot -- the handiwork of a radical, Gaza Strip-based Salafi group -- is seen by defense officials as an anomaly that does not indicate Hamas is gearing up for a fresh confrontation with Israel. 

This was, however, a very close call, as the rocket hit a child care center, which was empty at the time. Had that not been the case, things could have spiraled out of control very quickly.

Operation Protective Edge, waged in Gaza in 2014, was the result of a security escalation that culminated in the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens. While the current situation on the ground in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip is different, the volatile potential remains the same, and it is this potential that the military's actions in Hebron seek to defuse.


Yoav Limor

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=16577

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