The 'lone terrorist' idea is a meaningless joke

We need to stop burying our dead and receiving hugs from our elected officials.

Gideon Israel

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Is there such a thing as a lone wolf terrorist? Unfortunately, in the last decade, there has been a rise in the concept of a lone wolf terrorist in Israel. The practical meaning is that this terrorist acts one its own without the support of a terrorist organization, be it logistics, weapons, indoctrination. The concept is that terrorist coordinated and executed the attack by himself, and usually did not tell anyone.  While lone wolf terrorists do exist in various places - like the unabomber in America, and Timothy Mcveigh who blew up the Oklahoma federal buildings - its use in Israel obscures a much deeper problem and prevents the army and our elected officials from addressing the issue.

The last two terrorist attacks in Israel,  the murder of Ari Fuld in Gush Etzion, and this last terrorist attack at the Barkan Industrial area, are considered to be perpetrated by terrorists who attacked of their own volition - lone wolves. Veteran defense writer for Walla, Amir Bohbot, writes that defense officials  are convinced that Ashraf Abu-sacha, who brutally killed defenseless Ziv Hagabi and Kim Yechezkel, acted alone. That being the case, we can expect the army to apprehend the terrorist and, if caught alive, he will likely be sentenced to life in prison, maybe his house will be destroyed, end of story.

And this is exactly the problem.

These terrorists considered ‘lone wolves’ are that only in practical terms, since they come from a culture and society which has been keeping incitement to attack Israel on a low flame for the past 25 years, ever so slightly raising the temperature when necessary, and going full steam when terror attacks serve their purpose. At the outset of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian media was limited to television, newspaper and radio, controlled by the Palestinian Authority  and the incitement was broadcast from there. Now, 25 years later, incitement to attack Israel is all over the web and social media, emanating from random individuals who have soaked in and absorbed the culture of hate and violence toward Israel provoked by the Palestinian Authority and perpetuated by their society .

Calling certain terrorists  ‘lone wolves' or  'lone terrorists’, means defense officials will never be able to appropriately address the problem, because the attack will be treated as a criminal investigation, and closed once the terrorist is apprehended. It would be convenient to say that the problem is hate education emanating from the Palestinian Authority, which no doubt is a contributing factor, and that would be a good start. But after 70 years of the modern State of Israel, and the period that preceded it, we continue to witness the same type of vicious attacks from our Muslim neighbors living among us.

What is it that causes these attacks? Is it the failed peace process - but these types of attacks happened before that. Is it our presence in Judea and Samaria - countless Israelis were murdered by terrorists before that. Was it the establishment of the State of Israel - because the Hebron riots in 1929 preceded that. What is the root of this problem? What is it about our Muslim neighbors which can’t accept our existence?

Saying that a terrorist acted alone is no doubt convenient for the government. It allows it to shy away from the hard questions, and the difficult conclusions that might be reached. Yet, it is possible that our government, for political reasons or other reasons, may not want to address the root of the problem. In the book of Judges, the Jewish people faced difficult situations as they continued to settle the land. A Jewish leader would subsequently rise up or be chosen, and lead the Jews to victory. In some cases, this would lead to 40 years of quiet, sometimes 80 years. In our modern day Israel, can we have 10 years of quiet, maybe 20 years? If the root of the problem can’t be solved, is there an in-between solution?

I had a chemistry teacher in high school who said that in the 1970s the Arabs feared the Israeli border police, and would even walk to the other side of the street after seeing one. The Ahed Tamimi video serves as a succinct example of what has happened since then.  Whenever a holiday is approaching in Israel, we hear on the radio that Palestinians will not be permitted to leave Judea and Samaria during the course of the holiday. Why not? Could it be that there are some times during the year where Israeli safety is paramount, and other times not? Are there times during the year, when, well, let’s just say it would be very inconvenient for there to be a terrorist attack in any part of Israel?

Eight months ago, Raziel Shevach was murdered by terrorists on his way home. After the terrorists were apprehended, Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked: “Security forces will get to anyone who tries to harm Israeli citizens, and we will see that justice is served...I told Rabbi Raziel Shevach’s wife that we would get to the murderers, and last night the mission was completed.” Foreign Minister Lieberman said: “The account has been settled. I praise the IDF, Shin Bet, and Israel Police on their successful operation...”

Yet, Shevach’s wife, Yael, felt a little different: “I understand the desire for account-settling, but when it comes with another killing, we haven’t solved the problem. So one person has been killed, what about the ones still waiting to kill another Jew?”

Astonishingly enough, the same discourse played itself out a month later when the terrorist who stabbed Itamar Ben Gal to death was apprehended. After the terrorist's capture, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed satisfaction, saying: "We've come full circle. Let every murderous terrorist know we will get to him and settle the score with him. I congratulate the security forces…” Kind of rings hollow, doesn’t it?

Just as quiet can be reached for two weeks, it can also be reached for two months and two years.  The Israeli people deserve elected officials who will make the hard decision needed to defeat this problem.
And, here again, the widow, Miriam Ben Gal, had a different take: "Truthfully, I don't feel anything. It won't bring (Itamar) back home. And it won't prevent another terrorist from rising and murdering again and destroying another family." Could it be that Yael Shevach and Miriam Ben Gal, regular citizens with no security background, understand what the Defense Minister and Prime Minister fail to understand? They both know that the problem is much deeper, but our elected officials don’t know, or choose to ignore it?

We need to stop burying our dead and receiving hugs from our elected officials.

We must not allow our elected officials to use the deceptive phrase ‘lone terrorist’ or ‘acting alone’. It’s usage is not only a disservice to the Israeli people, but a kind of dereliction of duty. The Israeli government must face the hard questions and it’s long overdue to address the driving factor for this unending hatred. And if the security cabinet or defense apparatus is unwilling to do that, they should ask themselves: what are the means necessary to achieve quiet. Just as quiet can be reached for two weeks, it can also be reached for two months and two years.  The Israeli people deserve elected officials who will make the hard decision needed to defeat this problem. And this should be done with urgency; an urgency where our elected officials feel like the next victim could be from their family.

Similar to maggots which grow out of stale food, the next terrorist is growing and being groomed in the society where hate and violence persist. Our elected officials need to be asking how they break the soul of this brutal violence, nothing less.

Gideon Israel is the President of the Jerusalem Washington Center