Now that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has validated the death penalty for terrorists, attended by public opinion polls revealing 80% support levels for the value of that well-deserved punishment as a deterrent, it may be worthwhile to ratchet down the rhetoric several notches and mention less extreme punishments carried out by our friends and not-so-friendly allies.
After all, the powerful allure of the Paradise promised faithful Muslims who kill and die, makes the death penalty, which certainly fits the crime, less of a deterrent than the public thinks.
Israel has always been the only Democracy in the Middle East; nevertheless, the neighborhood has changed. Once, the enemy was Arab nationalism. Today, it is Islamic expansionism. The definition of deterrent has changed, and working with old strategic models is guaranteed to bring only failure in a new, changed reality.
What forms of deterrents are common in countries whose governments are considered members of civilized society?
United Nations Human Rights Committee member and our erstwhile ally, Saudi Arabia, performs punitive amputations for much lesser crimes than murder. You only have to be caught stealing to lose your hands. And there is very little theft in Saudi Arabia.
In the 1980 Iran-Iraq war, US military strategists reasoned that while a young man may be willing to die for jihad, he would not be willing to spend the rest of his life in total blindness. This realization led them to develop “CCLAW” – Close Combat Laser Weapon - technology, or the Roadrunner as it was called by the contractor who built the system. Its effectiveness was proven in Iraq and also various skirmishes in southeast Asia where the first waves of fighters to face the blinding lasers also proved to be the last.
Imagine if Israel’s anti-terror deterrent policy were that anyone who dares raise a stone – and a stone is a lethal weapon, as the families of Adele Biton and Amitai Kapach, two examples of innocents murdered by stone throwers, learned to their grief - to throw at a Jewish mother knew he would lose the use of his hands either temporarily or forever and become a ward of Palestinian society. Imagine if Israel used CCLAW weapons on rock throwers or knife-wielding would-be murderers.
No prison stays, no National Insurance. Only one instance would be necessary – if that. No would-be attacker, if they believed Israel meant it, would be even remotely comfortable chancing failure with the raised stakes.
Deterrence takes other forms in the civilized West. Proponents of sterilizing sex offenders argue from studies and experiments in many western countries, that chemical sterilizing of such offenders suppresses their libido and allows for successful rehabilitation,so that they can return to society without being able to harm their environment, especially small children and women.. Millions are allocated for such programs.
Imagine finding and applying an apt principle that suppresses the desire to murder to those caught planning to maim and murder Jews.
Lest the objection be raised that fear of these punitive actions won’t deter a suicide bomber, it should be noted that suicide bombers are frequently caught before the act and threat of imprisonment is not a deterrent.
If Israel did use deterrents similar in any way to those described above, the world, forgetting how it set the example, would condemn us and wring its hands, mourning how we have“sunk to such a low level.” We might remind them that the most important level to avoid sinking to is that of six-feet-underground. Moral posturing is a luxury when gentle people leading purposeful lives are being murdered in their homes.
Were a survey to be commissioned today among those exposed to the facts about Saudi Arabia and the USA presented here, a significant sector would conceivably find the proposal acceptable or even sensible for combating terrorism. It could start a movement for legislation that might become politically impossible to oppose.
We don't have to go as far as Saudi Arabia and the US. In the words of our Sages, “He who is merciful unto the cruel, will one day be cruel unto the merciful.”
Imagine that no Jewish mother driving somewhere with her babies would ever again be waylaid with a boulder in her windshield as she goes about her purposeful life. Imagine families at their Sabbath tables, free of the fear of a knife-wielding terrorist on the holy, festive day.
Effective deterrence is a condition that can only flow from a policy of zero tolerance towards hostile acts directed at our citizens, which is not the case today. Israel’s inability to enforce much lesser measures such as elementary magnetometer placement at flashpoints only underscores our weakness. Imagine Israel deciding that enough is enough and meting out punishments – the thought-out kind - that work.
Mordecai Sones writes in the news department of Arutz Sheva. He did research and military-political analysis in Washington, D.C. on the staff of former US. Senator Frank Murkowsk and as Deputy Director of Federation for American Afghan Action. His work has been published by the Ariel Center for Policy Research and has been quoted by global intelligence companies such as Stratfor. He lives in Beit El with his family.