Matters, my friends, are not always as they seem. We all know this…but need to be reminded from time to time. The subject of this posting is serious enough to merit focused and thoughtful attention.
As all my readers know, this past Sunday, brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, both hesder yeshiva students, were brutally murdered, shot at close range by a terrorist.
The attack took place on the major thoroughfare of route 60 in the Palestinian Authority town of Huwara in Samaria. Route 60 runs through Huwara. To say (as I had, with inadequate clarification) that it was adjacent to Hawara does not sufficiently reflect the complexity and the severity of the situation.
The nation reeled at the news of these horrendous murders. Fourteen Israelis have been killed by terrorists already this year.
Following this, dozens of Israelis stormed Huwara and rioted, setting fire to cars and homes.
Police ultimately restored quiet, and voices were raised condemning this action.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir (Otzma Yehudit), while cautioning that Israeli citizens should not take the law into their own hands, then observed:
“The attack yesterday is a severe and shocking attack that should teach us all that we are at war. This is not a war from yesterday and it is not a war that will end in one day, but it is a war that must inspire us all to adopt a policy of a real war on terror…The terrorists must be crushed.”
The message from Zvika Fogel, also of Otma Yehudit, was harsher: “The act that the residents of Judea and Samaria carried out yesterday is the strongest deterrent that the State of Israel has had since Operation Defensive Shield. After a murder like yesterday, villages should burn when the Israeli military does not act.”
Ben Gvir and Fogel were then widely criticized for inciting violence.
But we need to look more closely at what is going on.
The bottom line here is that Huwara is a hotbed of terrorism. This most recent attack was hardly the first emanating from that town.
And yet nothing had been done to protect Israeli citizens driving that stretch of Route 60 (a major thoroughfare that it is necessary to traverse to reach certain communities to the north). Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Yehuda Naumberg, uncle of the murdered boys, said that the location has been dangerous for years:
“I told the brigade commander that we feel like sitting ducks driving along that stretch of the road. They’ve simply abandoned the area; it hasn’t been safe there for the past 15 years at least. Something like this was waiting to happen…This [the rioting] is the price the government is paying for its weakness, its lax approach to what’s going on here…” (Emphasis added)
Yesterday a report surfaced that reinforces this point: There was scathing criticism from State Comptroller Matanyahu Engleman about the fact that the IDF neglected security. Not only was the security barrier not completed, there was vandalism in parts of the barrier that had been erected, so that Palestinian Arabs could slip through in large numbers. The vast majority of the Palestinian Arabs who come through the fence illegally are looking for work, but it doesn’t take many who have murderous intentions to generate pain and death.
It was only in 2022, when terrorism had increased to an alarming degree, that serious money was allocated for repairs in the barrier. But the Comptroller’s report says that even major repairs in the barrier would not be sufficient without a comprehensive plan that included permanent surveillance troops and lookout towers.
And let me carry this one step further: Apparently there were plans for a bypass road in the area of Huwara. These plans were set in place in 2017 and would have established a safe road between Tapuah Junction and Yitzhar Junction. This is a clear indication that the government was aware of a safety issue.
But work on this bypass road and other roads in Judea & Samaria was halted last year by then-transportation minister Merav Michaeli (head of Labor). She said: “It’s a shame to invest in a place that, at the end of the day, won’t be part of Israel.” This is the sort of statement that could make you think about banging your head against the wall.
Current Transportation Minister Miri Regev (Likud, pictured) has now vowed to get the project back on track and completed as soon as possible.
This is all about responsibility and making the saving of innocent Israeli lives a priority.
But let us take a look at how the residents of Huwara responded to the murdering of two yeshiva students. This video clip, from a highly reliable source, shows the celebrations and the fireworks.
Nice people, they are not.
What Ben Gvir said (cited above), rings very true: We are at war. Many chastise him for his position, call him radical, accuse him of fomenting problems.
I, however, believe he is correct, and I am grateful that he speaks out. We are dealing with a serious enemy and our failure to acknowledge this, and to act accordingly, costs lives.
What the IDF has been doing are discrete operations, to take out a Lions’ Den nest of terrorists here, an Islamic Jihad hideout there. These are good operations. However, we are not (yet) making a sufficiently serious, comprehensive and consolidated effort to defeat the enemy. To do this requires an adjustment in thinking.
I recognize that there are problems in mounting this necessary war. One is the failure of many to comprehend that power is at the core of Palestinian Arab culture. Being nice, cutting them slack, does not work – it only weakens us in their eyes. (And I will come back to this.) This is what Tzvika Fogel was referring to when he spoke of deterrence. If the IDF does not act (which it should, and I have no reason to presume that he thinks otherwise), the Arabs must know that the people will. That is, one way or another, there will be consequences. This is a message they will get.
Yet another problem is the pressure put on our government by other governments who have a very distorted notion about their right to interfere in what we are dealing with.
The US had the incredible audacity, the unmitigated gall, after the attack on Huwara to say, “We expect the Israeli government to ensure full accountability and legal prosecution of those responsible for these attacks…”
The fact is that the government will respond to those who were involved in violence in Huwara. But how do US officials imagine they have anything to say about the matter??
Did Blinken ever tell Abbas that the US expects him to terminate “pay for slay”? Did he ever insist that PA facilities not be named for terrorists? Or that incitement be removed from the textbooks?
When the IDF went into Nablus (Shechem) recently for a major operation against the Lions’ Den terrorists, many were wounded and a furor ensued. The US and Egypt then prevailed upon Israel to come to Jordan for a summit to discuss how to cool matters. (I wrote about this previously.) Netanyahu agreed to Israeli participation and sent a delegation, headed by Tzachi Hanegbi.
A very good case can be made for the wisdom of his refusing to participate because nothing constructive would come of it from our perspective of seeking to eliminate terrorism. When we act in a significant way, it is hardly surprising that there should be a furor on the part of terror-supporters. Crowds are sent out precisely for this purpose.
Very likely Netanyahu was reluctant to refuse to send an Israeli delegation to the summit. But then he should have instructed our team not to make concessions with regard to fighting terrorism. The fact that he told neither Ben Gvir nor Smotrich about this meeting suggests that he knew from the start that there might/would be concessions made.
After the meeting, Ynet cited an unnamed Israeli security officer as saying, “We will only act in the face of ticking bombs or an urgent operational need.”
Hanegbi denied this, saying, “The IDF will continue with counterterror activities in all areas of Judea and Samaria without any limitations. It’s very simple.”
No, it’s not simple. The PA was demanding that Israel cease all anti-terror operations in PA cities such as Jenin and Nablus.
And a Jordanian official is cited as having said, that the meeting was “part of stepped-up ongoing efforts by [Amman] in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and other parties to end unilateral measures [by Israel]…”
Got that? “End unilateral measures.” This means no anti-terrorism operations.
Clearly. we did not agree to end all unilateral measures. But it’s difficult for me to believe that some concessions weren’t made by Israel – in order to keep things quiet before Ramadan, we are told.
But this is not how to fight a war. If we pull back on anti-terror operations, it’s a victory for the terrorists.
There is former MK, a member of the Labor party, by the name of Yaya Fink. He ran for the Knesset in this last election but didn’t make it. Yaya is a leftist, a progressive, a bleeding heart. He was so upset about the houses and cars burned by Israelis that he has started a crowdfunding campaign for them.
Undoubtedly, there are those who think this is a splendid idea. I myself find it disgusting and wish to say so with clarity.
Esti and Shalom Yaniv, the parents of the two slain young men, are horrified.
“Every day, I look down at the murderous village of Huwara where the murderer of my sons is still walking free, where they handed out pastries and celebrated after the murder,” said Esti. “I was horrified to hear of this dreadful campaign, [launched] a day after many of the residents of Huwara celebrated after the murder of my sons.”
Just as I am sure some people find what Yaya is doing lovely, I am certain that they believe it is a very Jewish thing to do. But it is not.
There is a saying from Talmud and elsewhere (there are several sources), “One who becomes compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate.” That is, by being compassionate to someone who is cruel you enhance his opportunity to hurt others with his cruelty.
This discussion is very pertinent because this Shabbat, immediately before Purim, is Shabbat Zahor – Shabbat of Remembrance. Everyone is bidden to go to synagogue and hear during Torah reading, from Deuteronomy 25:
17 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, 18 how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary…Therefore…you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.”
Remember the evil that Amalek, the enemy of the people, did to you, attacking the weak and weary. Don’t forget what they did and blot out Amalek.
Now, lest anyone think otherwise, I assure you that I am not saying that the Palestinian Arabs are Amalek and that we must blot them all out. Nor am I saying they are all evil; they are not.
But I am saying that we must not forget their murderous acts and try to wipe it all away. In every generation there are those who rise up against us, and we must be on our guard. We certainly should not rush to do kindnesses to people who would gladly see us dead.
The family of Hallel and Yagel is starting another fund to encourage Torah learning, strengthen settlements, and provide encouragement to soldiers. Said Yehuda Neumberg, the boys’ uncle:
“When we first heard of this appalling campaign, a campaign that encourages terrorism and that tries to extend sympathy to our enemies, we thought we must be imagining things. It is like spitting in the faces of Yagel and Hallel. That’s why my friends and I decided to urgently set up a campaign to increase light in the world, in the face of this tremendous darkness and confusion.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.