Is Israel’s Home Front Ready For September?
When we moved from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion on August 31, 2010, my family and I became official “settlers.” The following day Hamas welcomed our arrival with the murder of four Israelis in an attack near Beit Hagai. As we unpacked our boxes, the wailing sirens pierced the quiet Yishuv evening. The sound of ambulances whizzing by was not unfamiliar; we had become accustomed to hearing the sirens when we lived near Jerusalem’s hospitals during the years of suicide bombings. There were times we had often known about the terror attacks before the news reports simply by sitting on our porch, listening and then watching the horrific scenes unfold.
The Beit Haggai attack was different. It was as if we had joined a unique group of people bonded through the misfortune of bearing the brunt of thousands of terror attempts. While the majority of fatalities during the second intifada occurred within Israel’s major population centers in pre-1967 Israel, the overwhelming majority of attacks took place in Judea and Samaria. According to the official IDF website, in Judea and Samaria alone, there were approximately 7,000 terror incidents from 2002-2009. That includes rock throwing, stabbings, shootings, and suicide bombings, targeting Israeli motorists traveling the roads, and citizens within their own communities. We cannot forget the thousands of attacks, including 5,000 Qassam rockets, that terrorists launched against the Jews of Gush Katif in Gaza.
While I know that residents of Judea and Samaria would rather be connected over ideology, or a shared laid-back suburban lifestyle, the sad reality is that tragedy brings people closer. Following the attacks in Beit Chagai and Itamar, my connectedness somehow felt different than after dozens of other violent acts within Israel’s population centers.
Hopefully, the worst is behind us, but I can’t help being somewhat nervous as the focus in Israel turns towards September and the UN. The Palestinian Arabs are set to declare statehood at the General Assembly yet again (they did so in 1988), but this time things are different. Since Oslo, the Palestinians have been given control over territory and, equally relevant, they are backed by a police force of 4,000 armed men.
At the start of the second intifada in 2000, Israel learned a painful lesson when armed PA (Palestinian Authority) Security Guards turned their weapons on their Israeli counterparts. One of the first Israeli casualties occurred on Sept 29, 2000, when Israel Border Police Supt. Yosef Tabeja, 27, of Ramle was shot to death by his Palestinian “ally” on a joint patrol near Qalqilya.
While current indications point to the potential of “non-violent”’ protests erupting, The Jerusalem Post quoted Knesset Member (Kadima) and Former IDF Chief, MK Shaul Mofaz, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, as saying that he fears the IDF is not ready for what September may bring. He specifically mentioned communities in Judea and Samaria: “I am not sure that the IDF has the correct response prepared for a mass demonstration of 60,000 people rushing toward a settlement.”
That scenario keeps me up at night.
While I believe that Israel should downplay and even ignore the UN vote in September on the diplomatic front, it is imperative, however, on the home front, that the IDF brass prepare our troops for what may come, expecting the worse. I am sure our soldiers will rise to the occasion in any scenario, and I don’t want this self-fulfilling prophecy God forbid to be realized, but the potential for loss of life within the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria worries me no end.
Reports indicating that Israel might be willing to remove more checkpoints and barriers in Judea and Samaria to lure the Palestinians from going to the UN are all the more troubling. What if Israel makes concessions and the vote is still taken to the UN? What if the Security Council rejects the motion, causing rioting on the ground? Will Israel automatically reintroduce those proven highly effective security measures, or will it be too late? If there is even any inkling of doubt on the outcome, and there is, risking Israeli lives from the start is not an acceptable option.
Come what may, my family and I have no regrets about moving to a Yishuv. Life here is everything we expected and more. Here’s hoping that we can bond with our new neighbors over good tidings for many years to come.