Jacob Heilbrunn

Jewish Terrorism

This is what the Speaker of the Knessett has to say about some of the settlers on the West Bank:

"This is not a 'price' or a 'tag,' this is terror," he wrote. "These villainous criminals who harmed houses of prayer, fields, homes and property belonging to Palestinians, are Jewish, and this is Jewish terrorism that should be called nothing less."

Reuven Rivlin is referring, of course, to the "price" that radical settlers proclaim they will exact if any of the illegal settlements in the West Bank are removed by the government. He plans to deliver a speech on the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin that includes these searing remarks. Threats are now being made against Peace Now activists. Haaretz reports:

Slogans calling for the death of Ofran, the Settlement Watch director with Peace Now, were first sprayed on her door in the beginning of September, probably following the evacuation of several illegal houses in Migron a few days earlier. The slogans read "Price Tag Migron," "Suppression of traitors" and "Peace Now the end is near." This time the extremists spared her door, but a car not belonging to Ofran, which happened to have a bumper sticker reading "Peace" was damaged. The car's tires were punctured and slogans were sprayed on it including "Price tag" - spelled wrong.

Among the slogans sprayed yesterday - on the eve of the official Yitzhak Rabin Remembrance Day - was "Rabin is waiting for you," a play on the murdered prime minister's last campaign slogan: "Israel is waiting for Rabin."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been making noises about removing some of the more flagrant settlements, which serve as outposts for radical settlers to harrass Palestinians. This might earn Israel a few brownie points abroad. At the same time, Netanyahu has, as the Los Angeles Times delicately puts it, "expressed support" for a bill that would circumscribe foreign donations to human rights organizations in Israel. In demonizing organizations such as Peace Now, he may well have helped legitimize attacks against them.

So Israel is in tumult. What else is new? But the stakes keep getting higher. The Arab revolutions have altered the strategic balance in the region--in some ways it could turn out to be in Israel's favor, in other ways not. Iran would lose big time if Syria were to experience regime change. The cold peace with Egypt has become somewhat frostier. What's missing in Israel is a clear strategic concept for dealing with these changes.

Instead, the Netanyahu strategy appears to be to "muddle along." For one thing, Netanyahu hopes that Barack Obama will be ousted from the presidency. A Republican president would be far more receptive to his plans for expanding housing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In addition, the bellicosity of the Republican primary contenders suggests that they would be readier to sign off on a plan to bomb Iran—even Jon Huntsman has expressed support for the idea. Iran says it may target the Dimona site in retaliation.

The loss of Rabin—this is the sixteenth memorial day honoring him—becomes even clearer as Israel lurches into internal strife. Rabin might have been able to bring closure to the condundrum of reaching peace with the Palestinians. Netanyahu is a poser who commands none of his authority. The successor generation in Israel has mismanaged the country. The radical right is becoming increasingly emboldened. Can anyone truly believe that Israel's strategic situation is better today than it was when Rabin was in power? A good case could be made that Israel is in mortal danger, not from the Palestinians, but from its own homegrown right.