Analysis from Israel

Today’s terror attack in Tel Aviv was unusual in that it originated in the West Bank, where a continuous, proactive Israel Defense Forces presence has virtually eradicated terror. In contrast, Israel suffers daily terrorism from Gaza, which the IDF left six years ago, and repeated “cease-fires” never actually cease the fire: This weekend, for instance, three rockets hit southern Israel despite the “cease-fire” announced last week by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.

During the last six years, Gazan terrorists have fired more  than 7,000 rockets and mortars at Israel. That successive Israeli governments have allowed this terror to continue is an abdication of any government’s primary responsibility: ensuring its citizens’ security. But it has also had devastating strategic consequences.

As former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer noted, it acclimated the world to the idea rocket fire on Israel is perfectly acceptable, with the result that when Israel finally did strike back in 2008, it suffered universal condemnation, culminating in the infamous Goldstone Report. As Haaretz Palestinian affairs correspondent Avi Issacharoff  noted, it has convinced the terrorists Israel fears them, emboldening them to escalate their terror. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie noted, it undermines the raison d’etre of a Jewish state, which is to protect Jews. And you needn’t be “right-wing” to reach these conclusions; all of the above are outspoken liberal doves.

Now, as I’ve written elsewhere, the terrorist enclave in Gaza also threatens Israel’s peace with Egypt. This month’s terror attacks near Eilat, perpetrated by Gazans who traversed the  Sinai to attack across the Egyptian-Israeli border, sparked a major diplomatic crisis with Cairo when several Egyptian soldiers were killed in the cross-fire; this success will surely prompt the terrorists to try to repeat it. And if enough Israelis and Egyptians are killed along their mutual border, an Egyptian-Israeli war could erupt.

For all these reasons, eliminating the Gazan terrorist enclave is imperative. But this can’t be done via a short-term operation like 2008’s; only a long-term IDF presence in Gaza will do.

The claim “there’s no military solution to rocket fire” is patently absurd. During those same years when Gazan terrorists fired more than 7,000 missiles at Israel, not a single rocket was fired from the West Bank. So unless you believe that West Bank terrorists, unlike their Gazan counterparts, never wanted to launch rockets,  the obvious conclusion is the IDF’s continuous, proactive presence has thus far prevented West Bank terrorists from acquiring rocket-launching capabilities.

The diplomatic arguments against such a move are far more serious: The international outcry would be enormous. But continued delay will only further embolden the terrorists, further accustom the world to the idea terrorists are entitled to shoot rockets at Israel with impunity, and make war with Egypt more likely. Indeed, the Eilat attacks put the diplomatic consequences of inaction on stark display: Though Israel had precise intelligence about the attacks, its government rejected a Shin Bet security service recommendation to thwart them via a preventive strike on Gaza, fearing Egypt’s anger. In consequence, the attacks went ahead and several Egyptians were killed – outraging Egyptian public opinion far more than a strike on Gaza would have.

Gaza’s terrorist regime must be destroyed. Israel can no longer afford any other outcome.

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How Israel’s Electoral System Brings the Country’s Fringes Into Its Center

Like Haviv Rettig Gur in “How and Why Israelis Vote,” I, too, think the advantages of Israel’s parliamentary system outweigh its disadvantages, and for essentially the same reason: because it keeps a great many people in the political system who would otherwise remain outside it.

Critics of the system’s plethora of small parties—as Gur notes, no fewer than 43 parties have been vying for Knesset seats in this year’s election—maintain that it should be streamlined and redesigned so that only big parties would be able to enter the Knesset. In that case, the critics argue, people who currently vote for small parties would simply switch their votes to large ones.

No doubt, some voters would do so—but many others would not. There are at least three groups among whom turnout would plummet if niche parties became by definition unelectable: Arabs, Ḥaredim (including some ḥaredi Zionists), and the protest voters who, in every election, propel a new “fad” party into the Knesset. (In 2015, as Gur writes, the fad party was Kulanu. This year, it’s been Moshe Feiglin’s pro-marijuana, libertarian, right-wing Zehut party, which Gur doesn’t discuss although polls have consistently showed it gaining five to seven seats.)

Together, these three groups constitute roughly a third of the country, and all three are to some extent alienated from the mainstream. If they were no longer even participating in elections, that alienation would grow.

Why does this matter? In answering that question, I’ll focus mainly on Ḥaredim and Arabs, the most significant and also the most stable of the three groups (protest voters being by nature amorphous and changeable).

It matters primarily because people who cease to see politics as a means of furthering their goals are more likely to resort to violence. Indeed, it’s no accident that most political violence in Israel has issued from quarters outside the electoral system.

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