Analysis from Israel

After Mohammed Oudeh, planner of the terror attack that killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, died this weekend, media obituaries noted that he never regretted his actions. A 2006 interview with AP explained why:

“Before Munich, we were simply terrorists. After Munich, at least people started asking who are these terrorists? What do they want? Before Munich, nobody had the slightest idea about Palestine.”

George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and architect of the campaign of airline hijackings that began terrorizing Europe in the late 1960s, offered an identical argument as far back as 1970:

“When we hijack a plane it has more effect than if we kill a hundred Israelis in battle. For decades, world public opinion has been neither for nor against the Palestinians. It simply ignored us. At least the world is talking about us now.”

Both men, of course, are right. As long as the Palestinians stuck to attacking Israelis on Israeli soil, the West ignored them. But when they began launching attacks in Europe, many Westerners suddenly started asking what could be done to satisfy their grievances and make them stop. And gradually, these questions morphed into a fixed determination to make Israel give the Palestinians whatever they wanted.

The same process is happening now with al-Qaeda. Before 9/11, almost nobody in the West had even heard of al-Qaeda. Since then, numerous articles by journalists, academics, ex-diplomats, ex-intelligence officers, et al. have argued that the West could take the wind out of al-Qaeda’s sails by withdrawing all troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries, forcing Israel to quit the territories, halting drone attacks on terrorists, and so forth.

This is not yet the consensus; the dominant view is still that al-Qaeda must be fought. But that was also the dominant view when Palestinians first began attacking Europe 40 years ago. It takes time for persistent questions and suggestions to create a consensus for appeasement.

In contrast, there is no talk whatsoever in the West about how to satisfy the grievances of, say, the Congolese militias, who are slaughtering 45,000 of their countrymen every month, or the Kurdish PKK, which has been attacking Turkey for decades. That is because they, poor fools, are still trying to achieve their goals by fighting those they deem their enemies. They haven’t yet grasped what the perceptive Palestinians realized four decades ago: if you want the West to help you achieve your goals, you have to attack the West directly.

This clearly isn’t the message the West should be sending, as it merely invites more terror attacks on Western soil. The rule should have been that any attack on the West would cause it to join wholeheartedly with the terrorists’ adversaries in an effort to destroy them. But through their support of the Palestinian cause over the past few decades, the message Western governments have actually sent is that attacking the West pays.

And if other terrorist groups eventually wake up and adopt the same tactics, the West will have only itself to blame.

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Israel’s unity government may prove a constitutional time bomb

That Israel will soon have a government is good news; almost any government would be better than the political dysfunction that has produced three elections in the past year. But aside from its existence, there’s little to like about this “unity” government.

The biggest problem isn’t that many important issues will perforce go unaddressed, though that’s inevitable given the compromises required when neither bloc can govern on its own. Nor is it the risk that the government will be dysfunctional even on “consensual” issues like rescuing the economy from the coronavirus crisis, though this risk is real, since both sides’ leaders will have veto power over every government decision.

Rather, it’s the cavalier way that Israel’s Basic Laws are being amended to serve the particular needs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new partner, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz.

Though Israel’s Supreme Court wrongly claims the Basic Laws are a constitution, they were never intended as such by the parliaments that passed them. Indeed, some were approved by a mere quarter of the Knesset or less.

But they were intended as the building blocks of a future constitution should Israel ever adopt one. That’s why this handful of laws, alone of all the laws on Israel’s books, are deemed “Basic Laws,” and why each addresses a fundamental constitutional issue (the executive branch, the legislature, the judiciary, human rights, Israel’s Jewish character, etc.).

In other words, though they aren’t a constitution, they do serve as the foundation of Israel’s system of government. And tinkering with the architecture of any democratic system of government can have unintended consequences, as Israel has discovered before to its detriment.

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