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Op-Ed: Arresting Arab Assets

What is the Israeli government?s policy ? To strike at the ?terrorist infrastructure?, and then allow it to be rebuilt and re-armed; to assassinate terrorist ?leaders? and ?senior operatives?, of whom there seem to be an inexhaustible supply; to promise undefined ?painful concessions? to an enemy for whom no concessions will ever suffice; to lull its Jewish population into a mind- and heart
Published: Sunday, September 14, 2003 3:50 PM


It should be obvious to all but the willfully blind that peace is not coming to Israel, not in this generation, not in the next, and probably not for several generations. And, by now, it should be equally obvious that the Sharon government has abjectly failed in the primary responsibility of any government - the protection of the lives of its citizens. For all its tough talk and occasional action, it has presided over the worst period of terrorism and civilian casualties ever to afflict Israel. It also remains committed to failed policies that bring sporadic relief, but suffer from an absence of long-term thinking.

What is the Israeli government?s policy ? To strike at the ?terrorist infrastructure?, and then allow it to be rebuilt and re-armed; to assassinate terrorist ?leaders? and ?senior operatives?, of whom there seem to be an inexhaustible supply; to promise undefined ?painful concessions? to an enemy for whom no concessions will ever suffice; to lull its Jewish population into a mind- and heart-numbing acceptance of the current situation as the inevitable fate of the Jews.

The policy has failed because nothing of real value or importance to the enemy has been attacked. Expelling terrorist leaders accomplishes nothing, as they will continue to plot and fuel destruction from abroad. Even killing them is of limited value, because of the virulent Jew-hatred and bloodlust that has taken root in the Arab society at large.

A people for whom death while killing Jews is deemed virtuous cannot credibly be ?threatened? with death. A people habituated by their leadership to living with poverty and unemployment cannot credibly be ?threatened? with economic hardship. Nor are delays in the attainment of ?statehood?, ?independence? or the trappings of sovereignty meaningful or substantive. These are symbols, which, even if denied in the short term, are held out prospectively as carrots of the future. They can never be lost in perpetuity.

In short, Arab terrorism against Jews pays because they literally have everything to gain and nothing to lose. This dynamic must change, or the bloodshed will continue and escalate amid mounting public frustration and despair. It can change, by identifying, exposing and, if necessary, eliminating Arab ?assets? whose loss will entail real pain and will be irrevocable.

Some have suggested that, since Arabs most fear physical displacement, building new or expanding existing settlements in response to Arab terror will dampen their murderous ardor and deter future attacks. This is certainly worthwhile in its own right, but only as a restatement of our inalienable rights to Eretz Yisrael. As a measure to thwart terrorism, settlement building suffers from a lack of irrevocability. Unfortunately, as we have learned in the recent past, settlements can also be uprooted. What is built today can be torn down tomorrow.

Imprisonment is also no sure deterrent, because prisoners sentenced to ?life? who ?have blood on their hands? can also be released, often on ?humanitarian? (?) grounds. Even exile holds out the prospect of eventual return.

There is one Arab asset that is prized and vulnerable, and is afforded them through our good nature and commitment to civilized values. The Arabs of Israel benefit from freedom of religion, and of course use it to allow their imams and preachers to spew out hateful incitement against Jews and Israel. They also have almost unfettered access to places that we deem holy and are often restricted to Jews.

What would be the reaction if it were announced that for every attack on a Jew in the land of Israel, the Me?arat HaMachpela in Hevron or the Har HaBayit (Temple Mount) will be closed to all Arabs for one week, month, etc.? (Of course, there is a precedent for this: the latter site?s closure to Jews for almost two years.) Or, in response to another suicide bombing, the mosque in the Tomb of our Patriarchs will be permanently dismantled ? Or, the topography of the Temple Mount will be significantly altered? Why are their places of incitement protected and guarded by Jewish soldiers? Why should the mosque and shrine, which today desecrate the Har Habayit, be sacrosanct, when Jewish life is not?

Consider that the Dome of the Rock was built atop a Crusader church, which was built atop a mosque, which was built atop a Byzantine church, which was built atop pagan temples, which were built atop the Bet HaMikdash. Israel has the distinction of being the only conquerors of Jerusalem in 4,000 years not to replace the shrines of the defeated nation. Why must that be the permanent reality, especially since the Arab Moslems themselves destroyed synagogues in the Old City between 1948-1967, and, more recently, other Moslems destroyed the Buddhist shrines in Afghanistan? How could they complain with any semblance of sincerity? This would be an effective deterrent - if there can be any effective deterrent.

Two objections will surely be raised. To threaten and carry out the demolition of the historic mosques and shrines in the land of Israel will provoke jihad, worldwide condemnation and more death. But jihad has already been declared, international condemnation greets every act of Israeli self-defense, and the murderers strike with impunity anyway. Does anyone believe that if Arabs possessed weapons of mass destruction they would hesitate for a moment to use it against Israel? Is the current policy somehow deterring suicide bombers? This objection is hollow and results from stale thinking.

The second objection will be internal, from our own people: ?Jews don?t act like that, we respect all religions, we are better than that, we are not like them,? etc. These arguments are especially convincing to those who always believe that peace is around the corner, just another signing ceremony away. Today, it is worse than hollow; it is corrupt and offensive. Israel is at war. Just as it is absurd and immoral to let enemy leaders escape death because they hide among the civilian population (apparently, only Israeli civilians are allowed to be targets; Arab civilians are inviolable, even collaterally), so too it is absurd and immoral not to exploit every weakness and vulnerability that the enemy has. The Israeli government is good at threats; let them spread the word that the mosques are not untouchable.

To escape the morass - the cycle of endless death and mourning - thinking out of the box is required. Perhaps there are other Arab assets whose permanent loss will make terror less of a win-win situation for them. They should also be identified and utilized.

Clearly, the pre-emptive arrests, bombings, and targeted killings are no deterrent. Something else must be tried.

Jewish life is sacred. Arab shrines are not. Put them on the defensive. Force them to exercise internal restraint. Let them feel the pain of self-inflicted wounds that cannot be healed. Let them feel the exercise of Jewish might and pride that proclaims: ?This is our G-d-given land. We have finally returned and are not going anywhere. Your stay here is growing tenuous, not ours. We will persevere, we will triumph, and, with G-d?s help, we will achieve our destiny in this land.?