UN Security Council condemns Tel Aviv attack for the first time since current terror wave
Members of the Security Council condemned “in the strongest terms” the terrorist attack at Sarona market in Tel Aviv, during which at least four civilians were killed and many more injured.
This was the Security Council’s first official condemnation of a terror attack carried out by Palestinians on Israelis since the beginning of the current wave of violence that begun this fall.
The Security Council members also expressed their “deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Israel” and stated that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.”
In addition they underlined “the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice.”
“Those responsible for these killings should be held accountable, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with all relevant authorities in this regard,” the Council wrote. “Any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon welcomed the condemnation and said it is “an important and moral statement.“ “The images of carnage resulting from Palestinian terror reached the members of the Security Council,” he said. “We call on all the countries of the world to help end these attacks by strongly opposing the Palestinian incitement that directly leads to violent terrorism.”
The Council’s statement followed one issued by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon just hours after the shooting attack took place on Wednesday and in which he said that “there is no justification for terrorism nor for the glorification of those who commit such heinous acts.” (Jerusalem Post)
Let’s Buy Out Max Brenner, Turn Darkness Into Light,’ Says Volunteer Dovi Meyer, from Sydney, Who Launched ‘Pay It Forward’ Campaign in Wake of Tel Aviv Terrorist Attack
Dovi Meyer buying chocolate inside the Max Brenner store that was the site of Wednesday’s terror attack.
A volunteer for Israel’s United Hatzalah ambulance service is spearheading a “pay it forward” campaign to bolster the Max Brenner chocolate bar where Palestinian terrorists began a murderous shooting spree on Wednesday night — killing four Israelis and wounding many more.
“I wanted to start a trend,” 20-year-old Dovi Meyer said on Thursday about the campaign he launched earlier on the day. The initiative involved purchasing nearly 1,000 chocolate bars at Max Brenner, and distributing them, two at a time, to passersby outside — asking each to give up one of the two to someone else, on condition that the next person buy a bar and continue the chain.
“As I started, businessmen began stopping and said, ‘You know what? I’ll buy this for my wife or for a friend.’ And the store, which had been pretty empty before, started to fill up. Outside, it was pumping, but inside, people were just inquisitive; they weren’t really buying. So I wanted to set that drive, and the only way I could do it was by doing something over the top. I bought an obscene amount of chocolate, so that people would buy one or two, and that’s what they did. They started flooding in…and I felt something really special about it.”
Meyer — who was an EMT in Sydney, Australia, before he immigrated to Israel two years ago — added, “Nothing gives me greater joy than helping people, and when I don’t see change, it bothers me and I speak up.”
Meyer also said he hopes the campaign will get people to shop at the Max Brenner branch before Shavuot — the Jewish holiday that begins Saturday night — during which it is customary to eat dairy products.
Scores of people gathered outside the eatery on Thursday to sing and dance in support of Israel and place flowers around the site of the killings. Meyer said the scene, which included Orthodox Jews helping men put on tefillin [phylacteries] for prayer, was “quite emotional to witness, and it moved me.”
He told The Algemeiner, “Let’s buy Max Brenner out. Let’s take something that was so sad…and turn darkness into light.
The pro-Israel education and advocacy group StandWithUs posted a video about Meyer’s campaign on Facebook. (The Algemeiner)
The route to terror: Police reveal how gunmen got from Hebron to Tel Aviv
The two Palestinian terrorists who perpetrated the attack at the Sarona Market in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday night, killing four Israelis, arrived in the city by taxi from Beersheba, according to information revealed by security authorities Friday.
According to a joint investigation by the Shin Bet, IDF and Border Police, the two perpetrators, cousins Muhammad and Khalid Muhamra from the West Bank town of Yatta, left their village just south of Hebron and made their way to the Israeli town of Meitar through a wide gap in the security barrier.
The two were already armed, having purchased their weapons — Carl Gustav automatic firearms — in their hometown through an intermediary.
This suspected collaborator was reportedly arrested by Israeli security forces sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed Thursday that a third man had been arrested.
Once on the Israeli side in Meitar, the cousins were assisted by a Palestinian man working illegally in Israel who drove them to the Bedouin town of Segev Shalom, southeast of Beersheba.
This is where, according to the investigation, they changed into the formal attire — suits and ties — which they wore when they carried out the attack.
Dressed and armed, they took a taxi from Segev Shalom to Beersheba, and another cab to Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market where, after entering and ordering dessert at the Max Brenner cafe, they got up and fired their weapons at the Israeli customers around them, killing four and wounding 16.
A cab ride from Beersheba to Tel Aviv takes less than two hours and costs approximately NIS 400 (about $100)
According to Channel 2, the taxi driver who took them from Beersheba to Tel Aviv was picked up by police for questioning, and claimed he had no idea who they were and what they planned to do.
According to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday, work to plug the gaps in the security fence in the Tarkumiya-Meitar area will begin on June 28 and the budget has already been allocated.
Israel has also deployed additional forces to the area until the work is completed, the PMO said.
Following the deadly attack, the Israeli government ordered a series of measures in response, including the sealing off of the West Bank and Gaza and the revocation of work permits from family members of the terrorists (the Times of Israel)
Business owners say customers asking if employ Arabs in light of recent terror attacks
Israeli businessmen are picking up on the growing trend of potential customers asking them if their employees are Arabs.
The phenomenon has increased sharply since the wave of knifings and terrorism attacks began in September. The latest bloody attack took place last week when two Palestinians from the West Bank village of Yatta murdered four diners at Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market.
Roi Mizrahi, owner of the delivery company Ask5, told The Jerusalem Post that some clients would ask if his services would include Arab workers. “But now, I get asked every day.”
“We don’t want to get into politics,” he said, adding that he is only concerned with providing professional service to customers.
He explained that his company works with subcontractors who hire workers from all kinds of backgrounds.
He said in some cases the issue was a make or break factor in whether a deal would close.
Moti Akshoti, who works in plaster construction, said, “Since the start of the wave of terrorism, the third question from customers that call me is checking if I come alone or with a team that includes Arabs.”
During the past few months, he said, there is a trend of customers checking whether employees are Arabs or Jews.
Yosi, a house painter with 20 years of experience, confirms the trend cited by Mizrahi and Akshoti. The wave of attacks have created fear among customers about Arabs entering their home, he said.
“People ask me if I come with Arab workers, and say frankly, if so then they are not interested. You can understand that customers are concerned for their safety,” he added.
Makbula Nassar, an Israeli Arab media personality, told the Post that this phenomenon “reinforces that Arab society should worry about young people and their integration into employment and training.”
“The situation is explosive,” she said, adding that we cannot “wait until racism is over or there will be peace.”
Nassar said many young Arab Israelis face a difficult occupational and personal situation.
“A person who does not have a job or livelihood or something to strive for in life will never have belief in their society and country.” (Jerusalem Post)
IDF: Attempted stabbing attack against soldier thwarted in Nablus
A suspected terrorist was shot and critically wounded following an attempted stabbing attack against an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus, the IDF said in a statement Friday.
According to the IDF, the assailant approached military forces stationed at a checkpoint near the village of Beit Furik, south of Nablus, where he pulled out a knife and attempted to stab one of the soldiers positioned in the area.
IDF forces quickly responded by shooting the attacker, abating his ability to commit any further harm.
The attacker was reportedly in critical condition following the shooting and was evacuated to the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson in Petah Tikva, according to The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Ma’ariv.
The military said that no soldiers were harmed in the event, adding they have opened an investigation.
The incident comes on the heels of a deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv earlier in the week in which four people were killed while patronizing a popular outdoor shopping center. At least six others were wounded in the shooting attack.
On Wednesday, two terrorists opened fire on Israeli civilians visiting the Sarona Market outdoor shopping center, located near the Kirya, the Defense Ministry’s Tel Aviv headquarters.
The assailants came from near Hebron, in the West Bank. They dressed in suits and ties and posed as customers at a restaurant, ordering a drink and a chocolate brownie before pulling out automatic weapons and opening fire, sending diners fleeing in panic.
Two women and two men were killed in the deadly incident.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the assault by the two gunmen, but Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups were quick to praise it.
The attack followed a lull in recent weeks after what had been near-daily stabbings and shootings on Israeli streets. It was the deadliest single incident since an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in November 2014 that killed five. (Jerusalem Post)
Three injured in rock throwing incident
Three people were lightly injured on Sunday night after a group of Palestinians hurled rocks at a bus near the Rockefeller museum in East Jerusalem.
The Egged line number three bus crossed Neviim Street and continued in the direction of the Kotel. Approximately 500 meters after it passed Sultan Suleiman’s Street and the Damascus gate, the rock throwers targeted the bus, causing panic and a nuber of injuries.
Magen David Adom (MDA) rescue and paramedic teams arrived at the scene to treat a 22 year old and a 23 year old, who sustained head injuries. The two were later evacuated to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital. MDA also treated and evacuated a 61-year-old lady to Hadassah Mount Scopus, who became overwhelmed by anxiety and was suffering chest pain.
All three injured individuals were discharged from hospital on Monday morning. The rock throwers also damaged the bus’s windshield and lower storage compartments. The Jerusalem police opened an investigation to locate and arrest the suspects.
In another incident near Kiryat Arba, a woman was lightly during incident in which stone throwers launched rocks at her windshield. Magen David Adom treated the woman on the scene. She refused to be evacuated to the hospital. (Ynet News)
Fallen soldiers held by Hamas recognized as captives MIA
Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, the two fallen soldiers whose bodies remain in the hands of Hamas, have been recognized by the IDF as captives missing in action.
The move comes as part of a renewed effort to recover the bodies of the fallen soldiers, which have been held by Hamas since the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Shaul was killed in July 2014 when the armored personnel carrier he was riding in struck a mine. Hamas terrorists later captured his body, which they have held for ransom, demanding Israel free terrorists in exchange for the transfer of the body.
In August 2014, in the midst of a US-negotiated ceasefire, Hamas terrorists emerged from a terror-tunnel and struck an IDF position, killing three soldiers. The body of Goldin, who was among the soldiers killed in the attack, was never recovered by the IDF.
The bereaved families have pressed the Israeli government to bring back the bodies of the fallen soldiers, though Hamas has indicated it would demand a steep price for their return.
As part an effort to raise awareness and to regain momentum for their efforts, the Goldin and Shaul families requested that the army reclassify the soldiers from simply fallen to “captured and MIA”. (Arutz Sheva)
Netanyahu: Enlightened nations must join together to fight terror
The terrorism that struck in Orlando over the weekend threatens the entire world, and the enlightened nations of the world must unite to fight it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
Netanyahu’s comments came at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, where he reiterated that “we stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people.”
“We are all shocked by the horrible massacre in Orlando,” he said. “I want to express condolences in the name of the government and the Israeli people to the American people and the families [of the victims] at this difficult hour.”
A gunman identified as Omar Saddiqui Mateen killed at least 50 people and injured 53 others in a gay nightclub in Florida early on Sunday before police shot him dead in what US authorities described as a “terrorism incident.”
Construction Minister Yoav Galant told reporters he believes international cooperation will increase to deal with the challenge posed by a single gun, camera and social media. He said that because Israel unfortunately has experience dealing with this, it will have an important role in this cooperation.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also denounced Sunday’s shooting as a “senseless act of terror and hate” and extended his sympathies to everyone impacted by the event.
“The Government of Palestine condemns this senseless act of terror and hate in Orlando, Florida,” Hamdallah said in a press release Monday.
“Our heartfelt condolences to all the grieving families, relatives and friends of the victims. Palestinians stand with the American people in this difficult time,” he added.
A senior FBI official said there were suggestions that the gunman might have had leanings toward Islamic State militants but that this required further investigation.
Mateen’s father said to the contrary that the shooting had nothing to do with terrorism rather, his son was angered when “he said two men kissing.”
Although at this time, no terror organization has taken credit for the heinous attack, pro-ISIS twitter accounts have posted pictures of Mateen, praising his violent act. (Jerusalem Post)
The IDF is ready for another conflict with Hezbollah at a moment’s notice
A decade after the start of the Second Lebanon War, the IDF has undergone a radical transformation as it keeps close tabs on Hezbollah – its most formidable enemy over the northern border.
This Iranian-backed Shi’ite terrorist army is gaining battlefield experience in Syria that IDF soldiers are not able to receive even in the most rigorous combat training programs.
Today, Hezbollah is the most heavily armed, trained and capable fighting force threatening Israel.
The IDF’s Brigade 300, tasked with defending the Western Galilee from the threat posed by Hezbollah to northern communities, faces off against Hezbollah on a daily basis. It must keep up with every improvement made on the other side, and respond accordingly with its own preparations.
In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, the brigade’s deputy commander, Lt.-Col. Kameel Tafish, provided a glimpse into that process, explaining how the IDF has adapted over the last 10 years. Many of those changes, he said, have occurred only recently.
“I think the Northern Command is in a different place completely, on all levels,” he said. “In the end, the threat could come from down to top, meaning that patrols must understand that if they are unprepared for an incident, they could drag Israel into a general war.”
A part of Division 91, and serving under IDF Northern Command, Brigade 300 is acutely aware of how quickly a tactical border incident can snowball into war, and it is designed to be able to deal with the initial stages of that kind of escalation on its own, while the rest of the military deploys back-up forces. This readiness did not exist in 2006, when Hezbollah was able to abduct and kill two IDF soldiers during a cross-border raid.
A native of the Druse village of Beit Jann in the North, Tafish fought in the war that followed the kidnapping.
He served in the (now disbanded) Druse Sword Battalion, acting as its operations officer in the first phase of the conflict.
Today, Tafish’s brigade stretches from the northwestern Israeli Mediterranean coastline to the Western Galilee. The territorial brigade’s main job is to defend communities that are in Hezbollah’s sights, such as Nahariya and Avivim.
According to Tafish, the brigade continuously receives updated and changing intelligence pictures on the terrorist group, and builds up operational plans accordingly. “We can change in accordance to the reality, which is fluid,” Tafish said.
The 2006 war created a major change in the way the brigade – and the Northern Command under which it serves – operates, he added.
More recently, security incidents on the border, which could have easily escalated into a wider conflict, also have caused the brigade to re-examine itself.
In January 2015, following a reported Israeli air strike on a convoy of Hezbollah and Iranian operatives who were constructing a terrorist base in the Syrian Golan, Hezbollah retaliated, firing a volley of Kornet guided missiles at the IDF, killing a soldier and commander in their D-Max vehicle.
The attack was launched from five kilometers away.
Had the missile attack caused more casualties, January 2015 could have gone down in history as the start of the Third Lebanon War.
That attack, dubbed “Winter Sun” in the IDF, caused Brigade 300 to change its operational plans, Tafish said, without going into details. “We are studying the situation on the other side. We are constantly thinking about changes, both in terms of intelligence and operations.”
The “Winter Sun” attack is now regarded as a “turning point” for the brigade, Tafish said. The use of Kornet guided missiles over a long range to target military traffic has “very much influenced how our brigade, division and the Northern Command think about Hezbollah’s capabilities,” he added.
The attack has led to a significant improvement in readiness, for both routine border security missions and emergency escalation situations, the deputy commander stated.
Tafish was frank about previous failures, saying that after the Second Lebanon War, the IDF realized it had significant intelligence gaps on Hezbollah and a corresponding lack of preparedness.
Today, however, the situation is very different, he said.
“We have upgraded our plans, both responses to surprise incidents [that snowball into conflict] or to events that begin because Hezbollah intended to escalate things,” he said. This entails reconfiguring how conscripted and reserve forces are deployed, trained and briefed.
Additionally, the brigade has been hard at work strengthening fortifications on the Lebanese border to defend communities. This effort includes the construction of walls and utilizing the cliffs along the border for protection as creating obstacles has become a major focus of the brigade.
“We want to strengthen places where we have had weaknesses,” Tafish said.
The brigade also has worked hard to improve its field intelligence capabilities.
While this does not mean it necessarily knows where every Hezbollah cell is at any given time, it can better detect approaches to the border in time and alert ground units or the air force if needed.
“Our intelligence gathering capabilities are much better and more efficient than in the past. They are sufficient for the challenges we expect to encounter,” he said.
Intensified training is a major area of focus for the brigade, according to the deputy commander.
Brigade 300 focuses on defense, as do other territorial brigades on borders, but also allows missions to maneuver deep into enemy territory, morphing into all-purpose war formations.
In case of a large-scale escalation, Brigade 300 could also end up moving across the Lebanese border to better be able to defend Israeli communities.
“For us, the border fence is just a fence. It is not holy. We can cross it if needed to prevent attacks under certain conditions,” he said.
“We are thinking, all the time, about improving readiness, in terms of routine and emergencies. We understand that this shift, from routine to emergency, is a very fine line. It can happen overnight,” he continued.
During briefings with soldiers, Tafish and other commanders have stressed the importance of individual action. IDF commanders are now telling soldiers that the way they respond to tactical incidents could make the difference between ending them on the spot or dragging the country into a wider conflict. Tafish acknowledged the heavy burden of responsibility this knowledge places on the soldiers.
Unlike the 2006 war, when both conscripted and reserve soldiers spent their time on counter-terrorism and riot-control missions in the West Bank, the IDF, in 2016, is pouring most of its resources into war readiness and training. That effort has seen reservists participating in Brigade 300 and being trained intensively.
Additionally, command and control capabilities in the headquarters of battalions, brigades and divisions have been improved. This means the brigade should be able to gain accurate intelligence in real time and respond with precise firepower to any developments.
Today, Hezbollah is “sinking into the Syrian mud,” Tafish said. “From time to time, it reminds us that it is on the border. We are not its first problem, though we remain its chief problem,” he added.
Hezbollah has lost 1,300 fighters and has suffered 5,500 wounded in Syria, paying a heavy price in blood of young Shi’ite gunmen. But it also has learned how to do things in Syria that could one day be used against Israel, and Brigade 300 must be aware of these improvements, Tafish said.
“Hezbollah has gotten stronger in its means and capabilities. It can send in a battalion to attack an area. It is gaining experience every day – experience our soldiers here are not gaining.
In the race of who is training more, they are leading us,” the deputy commander warned.
“We are taking this into account, and we are aware of it,” he said. “We are not sitting on the side, and waiting for the next incident to come to us.” (Jerusalem Post)
TA Terror Attack Shatters Five Myths
by Stephen M. Flatow JNS/the Algemeiner
The June 8 terrorist massacre in Tel Aviv exposed all five of the major myths that cloud discussions of Israel and the Palestinians.
Myth #1: “The problem is the settlements”
This was not a massacre of “settlers.” The attack did not take place in some disputed territory. Nobody can claim that the victims “provoked” the violence by living in some predominantly Arab area. These were people drinking coffee in the heart of Tel Aviv.
Myth #2: “It was a reaction to the occupation”
The attackers are residents of the village of Yatta. The Israeli occupation of Yatta ended when Israeli troops withdrew from the territories where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside in late 1995. Yatta has been under the rule of the Palestinian Authority for nearly 21 years.
Although Israel’s critics continue to falsely claim that the Palestinians live under “Israeli occupation,” the Israeli public knows better. The Israel Democracy Institute/Tel Aviv University monthly Peace Index survey for May 2016 found 71.7 percent of Israeli Jews say it is wrong to categorize Israel’s status in the territories (it rules the areas where Jews reside) as “occupation.”
Myth #3: “The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack”
The Palestinian Authority (PA) never calls such attacks “terrorism,” and always brackets the attacks on Israelis together with Israeli actions against terrorists, thereby justifying the attacks on Israelis. Its response to the Tel Aviv massacre was no different. It declared: “We condemn violence and attacks against civilians on both sides, whatever the justification.” The PA “not only condemned the attack in south Tel Aviv early on Monday morning, but also the recent Israel Defense Forces strikes on Gaza, and attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and in Jerusalem,” according to Israel’s Channel 10 television network.
Fatah, which is chaired by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, explicitly defended the massacre. According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Fatah issued a statement calling the attack “a natural response” to Israeli actions.
Fatah media committee head Munir al-Jaghoub explained, “Israel must realize the consequences of its persistence to push violence, house demolition policies, forced displacement of Palestinians, raids by Israeli settlers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and the cold-blooded killing of Palestinians at checkpoints.”
That’s the equivalent of the Democratic Party defending the San Bernardino massacre of 2015. Imagine U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), head of the Democratic National Committee, saying the killings in southern California were the “consequences” of President Barack Obama sending drones to carry out the “cold-blooded killing” of al-Qaeda members.
Myth #4: “Ordinary Palestinians are against terrorism”
Israel Hayom reports that, “In Ramallah, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, Jenin, and other cities, people danced in the streets, set off fireworks, and handed out treats while praising the attacks.” When the PA’s schools, newspapers, television stations constantly praise terrorists as “heroes” and “martyrs,” it is no wonder ordinary Palestinians have come to feel the same way.
The cities where the celebrations took place would be the heart of a future Palestinian state. They are just a few miles down the road from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Can those who celebrate massacres be trusted with a sovereign, independent state next door to Israel?
Myth #5: “The major American news outlets are staffed by objective, professionally trained journalists; if their coverage of Israel is unflattering, that’s because of Israel’s own policies, not because of media bias”
CNN’s Twitter announcement of the attack put the word “terrorists” in quotation marks, stating, “Two ‘terrorists’ captured after Tel Aviv attack, Israeli police spokesman tweets.” The Washington Post’s correspondents in Israel, William Booth and Ruth Eglash, exhibited the same bias. They described the terrorists as “gunmen,” “assailants,” and “attackers”—but never as terrorists, and only indirectly as Palestinians. And the headline-writers at Washington Post headquarters came up with this gem: “4 Killed in Tel Aviv Market Shooting that Officials Labeled Terrorist Attack.”
Perhaps copies of the Washington Post should bear labels of their own: “Warning: The reporting in this newspaper may be hazardous to the truth. It is often slanted for the purpose of protecting the Palestinian cause against criticism.”
Why the Tel Aviv Terror Attack Is Different — and What Comes Next
By J.J. Goldberg The Forward
The cold-blooded murders of four Israelis at the popular Sarona mall in Tel Aviv on June 8 brings to 38 the number of Israelis and visitors killed in the wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks that began last September 13, according to official government figures . Another 466 have been injured.
In several important respects, though, the Sarona attack is not like the ones that came before. It’s too soon to tell whether it opens a new chapter or will remain an anomaly in a pattern that remains otherwise unchanged. In part that depends on what future incidents look like. And in part it depends on how Israel’s security forces respond under the direction of the new defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman.
The terror wave that began last fall doesn’t have a formal name, though it’s sometimes called the Third Intifada or the Intifada of the Knives, because the majority of the attacks have been stabbings. What’s set it apart from the First Intifada, from 1987 to 1992, and the Second Intifada, from 2000 to 2005, is that it hasn’t been directed from above by an organization. With very few exceptions the attacks have been acts of individuals or pairs, mostly teenagers or young adults, without training, largely without sophisticated weapons and without serious planning. Hamas has wanted to get into the act and organize attacks on Israelis, but it hasn’t been able to because of the work of Israeli and Palestinian Authority intelligence agencies. The attackers appear to have acted mainly on impulse, incited by social media or word of mouth.
The Sarona attack, by contrast, was planned with some care and involved some level of organization beyond the two cousins who perpetrated the shootings. The shooters were transported into the heart of Tel Aviv from their village, Yatta in the southern Hebron Hills, by someone who knew their way around the metropolis — and who knew how to get around the layers of security that separate the West Bank from Israel proper. The target site was not just any gathering place but a packed, popular nightspot located just outside the Kirya, Israel’s military headquarters, giving it added shock effect. The terrorists were dressed in black suits that were passable enough to blend in with the evening crowds.
According to published reports, investigators have found no evidence of any link between the terrorist cousins and any known terror organizations. Their submachine guns were not smuggled in from Gaza or Jordan but cheaply manufactured in a local machine shop. Smuggled weapons would have killed many more victims before the terrorists were interdicted — think of the carnage at the Paris restaurant attacks last November — but the Sarona terrorists’ knock-off Carl Gustav devices jammed almost immediately.
It’s worth recalling, too, that Wednesday’s atrocity comes at a time when the terror wave that began last fall had begun to peter out. The four Israelis killed at the Sarona mall on June 8 were the first deaths from terrorism since March 8, when American graduate student Taylor Force was stabbed to death on the Jaffa promenade. The same three-month period saw some 50 people injured in terror incidents, most of them in the Jaffa stabbing spree and an April 19 bus bombing in Jerusalem.
In fact, though it’s seldom noted, the reality of the past year’s terror wave hasn’t been a constant stream of deadly violence. It began with an explosive outburst of mayhem last fall and has been slowly but steadily declining ever since. October saw 63 attacks, leaving 10 dead and 87 injured. By December that had fallen in half, to 35 attacks, two deaths and 44 injured, and then in half again by February, to 22 attacks, three deaths and 10 injured. May saw 12 attacks, no deaths, 11 injured.
What happened? When the violence began, tempers were hot among Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank because of false rumors that Israel had designs on the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The rage found a volatile host among bored, under- or unemployed Palestinian youth, and the mix was deadly. But because there was no organizing force and no planning behind the violence, Israel’s military and security service were at a loss. Moreover, the Palestinian Authority initially saw it as teenagers blowing off steam, and underestimated the depth of Israeli alarm and anger.
Gradually the rumors and the rage dissipated, the Israeli services began to develop new techniques — a mixture of better positioning of forces and increased work permits — and the PalestiniaAuthority security forces woke up. Finally, on March 30 Israeli and Palestinian security officials met to iron out differences and agree on stepped up coordination and other measures.
This is why Israel’s response to the Sarona murders could be critical. The strategies gradually adopted by Israel’s military and security services over the past few months worked. Not perfectly: terrorism didn’t disappear, but it declined dramatically. However, the strategies were never popular with the political echelon. Cabinet ministers bridled and sneered when intelligence heads told them that the violence was driven in large part by frustration and unemployment. Ministers objected when the army responded to the violence with combinations of strict enforcement and eased conditions. For the most part, then-defense minister Moshe Yaalon, himself a former career soldier and onetime chief of staff, backed up the generals and allowed them to do their jobs. Prime Minister Netanyahu mostly went along, sometimes backing him up, sometimes mildly echoing the critics.
Now Yaalon is gone and the fiery hardliner Avigdor Lieberman has taken his place. Lieberman has long advocated relentlessly iron-fisted measures to cow Palestinians into submission. The military and intelligence branches view such strategies as recipes for increased Palestinian rage and violence, but they’re popular with voters.
How Lieberman behaves in the next few days and weeks will be critical. His hardline instinct has been consistent over the years, but so has his instinct for pragmatism and respect for the professionals. He’ll have to balance the two Liebermans and choose the right one. One can continue the progress, agonizingly slow as it may be. The other might set things back to where they started.
In the first hours after the Sarona attack he ordered a closure of the terrorists’ home village of Yatta, population 20,000. Such measures have been taken in the past when terrorists were on the run and time was of the essence to find the perps and related evidence. This time the perps are in custody and undoubtedly singing their heads off. The purpose of closing off Yatta isn’t clear, unless it’s to teach the population a lesson. That might give momentary satisfaction, but it won’t make things better. It just might be the wrong Lieberman at work.
Israel and the Post-American Middle East: Why the Status Quo Is Sustainable – Martin Kramer (Foreign Affairs)
Some say Israel’s adherence to an “unsustainable” status quo in the West Bank has made it a liability in a region. But there is no near solution to the enduring conflict with the Palestinians. Israel maintains an over-the-horizon security footprint in most of the West Bank; Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation fills in most of the gaps. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is prosecuted mostly through maneuvering in international bodies and campaigns for and against BDS. These are high-decibel, low-impact confrontations.
The notion that Israelis live in a perpetual state of paralyzing fear misleads both Israel’s allies and its adversaries. Israel’s leaders are cautious but confident, and practiced in the very long game that everyone plays in the Middle East. Israel’s survival has always depended on its willingness to sustain the status quo that it has created, driving its adversaries to resignation – and compromise. Such resolve has served Israel well over time.
Still, there is a looming cloud on Israel’s horizon. The U.S., after a wildly erratic spree of misadventures, is backing out of the region. The leaders of the Zionist movement always sought to ally their project with the dominant power of the day, but they had lived through too much European history to think that great power is ever abiding.
In the 20th century, the emerging U.S. superpower didn’t rush to embrace the Jews. They were alone during the 1930s, when the gates of the U.S. were closed to them. They were alone during the Holocaust, when the U.S. awoke too late. They were alone in 1948, when the U.S. placed Israel under an arms embargo, and in 1967, when a U.S. president explicitly told the Israelis that if they went to war, they would be alone.
The Obama administration has given Israelis a preview of just how the unshakable bond is likely to be shaken. The inevitable turn of the wheel was precisely the reason Zionist Jews sought sovereign independence in the first place. An independent Israel is a guarantee against the day when the Jews will again find themselves alone, and it is an operating premise of Israeli strategic thought that such a day will come.
This conviction, far from paralyzing Israel, propels it to expand its options, diversify its relationships, and build its independent capabilities. Israel is planning to outlast the U.S. in the Middle East. Israelis roll their eyes when the U.S. insinuates that it best understands Israel’s genuine long-term interests.
It is time for the U.S. to abandon or at least modify the mantra that “the status quo is unsustainable.” Only if Israel’s adversaries conclude that Israel can sustain the status quo indefinitely is there any hope that they will reconcile themselves to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. The status quo may not be optimal, but it is sustainable, for as long as it takes.
As the U.S. steps back from the Middle East, this is the message Washington should send if it wants to assist Israel in filling the vacuum it will leave behind.
The writer is President of Shalem College in Jerusalem.