Photo: AFP
IDF demolishes home of attacker who killed Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky
Photo: AFP
Yoaz Hendel

Israel should raze terrorist homes to their very foundations

Op-ed: It's healthy for Israeli democracy to have a debate on the efficacy of knocking down terrorists' houses, but it works and should be implemented in full.

One of the strangest claims currently heard about the demolition of terrorists' homes is that it actually has no deterrence. The family whose home is destroyed goes on with their lives, happy and healthy, their neighbors pay no heed to the sudden open space, and the local residents don't give a second though to any consequences that they themselves may incur. This is a strange claim, not only because it is based on the assumption that Palestinians do not relate to their private property like the rest of the world, but also because of the assumptions behind this claim.



The most serious academic research on this subject (by Efraim Benmelech of Northwestern University, and Claude Errebie and Esteban F. Klor of the Hebrew University from 2015) found that house demolitions during the Second Intifada led to an immediate decrease in suicide attacks. According to the study, this reduction in terrorist activity lies between 11.7%-14.9%. It's recommended reading. This data is also consistent with the approach of the Shin Bet domestic security service during and after the intifada.


IDF demolishes home of attacker who killed Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky (Photo: AFP)
IDF demolishes home of attacker who killed Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky (Photo: AFP)


On the other hand, various more sane arguments against demolitions have been made, from human rights organizations that protest collective punishment or from an IDF investigative team that concluded that the cost is higher than the benefit, and demolitions even encourage revenge attacks.


The ongoing discussion about the demolition of terrorists' homes is part of the strength of Israeli democracy; its checks and balances, if you will. But house demolitions are a legal act, and not only according to the defense regulations that have been in place since the Mandate. They are legal because they save lives at the expense of property. Furthermore, the element of collective punishment is limited only to those who create a supportive environment for terrorists who murder Jews. The long legal process surrounding demolitions - sometimes too long – also allows us to avoid mistakes. Besides, the Israel of recent years does not really destroy entire homes anyway. Sealing off a room, or destroying a room or floor simply does not produce the same deterrent as demolishing a family home. This is a moral and security choice. In order for it to work, it must be implemented to its fullest extent. Otherwise it does not work.


Politics of fear, fear of politics


There is no other option but to conclude that Israel's government ministers, half of them at least, are convinced that their voters are stupid. Their basic assumption is that the electorate does not understand, or at least does not make the connection between ministers who sit in the government, making decisions alongside the person who heads it and bearing joint responsibility for those decisions, and the ministers who rail and rail against them.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: EPA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: EPA)


Benjamin Netanyahu has every reason to be paranoid. He is leading a bunch of cowards and overseeing politics of fear run rampant within government. The ministers range from fear of the public, who do not like moderate talk in response to a wave of terror, and the fear of Netanyahu, the political strongman. Ministers speak out against him behind closed doors, lament about his mental state and legal situation to journalists, and then go on the radio and sing his praises. I think Netanyahu should leave office - I've written enough about it - and indictments will indeed end his term. But unfortunately, even once he does go, this political culture will remain. How can ministers who sit in the government be taken seriously when they act as if they have nothing to do with any decisions?


The protest organizers from the Yesha Council of Settlers should also show a little more accountability about who put them in post. Holding a demonstration, alongside government ministers, in which they yell that they do not trust the government, is farcical.


If I forget thee, O Jerusalem


Donald Trump abandoned Israeli interests to the north, just as Barack Obama abandoned our interests on the Iranian nuclear issue. It has to be said, despite the positive things Trump has also done. Nevertheless, the Israeli government has two national-strategic missions for Trump's tenure in the White House. The first is strengthening Jerusalem; at the moment East Jerusalem in political chaos, but I'll get back to that. The second is strengthening the eastern border in the Jordan Valley.


There is no construction going on in Jerusalem, and the Jordan Valley is desolate. The 2,610 units approved seven years ago at Givat Hamatos (just over the Green Line in southern Jerusalem) have not yet been built on the orders of the political echelons. The 3,000 units approved for Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev have also been frozen. The process of relocating IDF colleges to Mount Scopus (after planning and investing tens of millions of shekels) has evaporated, and Jerusalem, which is desperate for housing and young people, is shuttered and closed.


None of this happened last week or even last month, but has been going on from day one of this government. None of those protesting ministers ever thought of abandoning the government. Not Naftali Bennett nor Ze'ev Elkin nor Yoav Galant nor any of the very chatty MKs such as Bezalel Smotrich, who recycles his threat to abandon ship every other week. The Jordan Valley, however, has been abandoned politically. Far from the center of the country, hot in the summer, cold in the winter, the settlers there are the product of the Labor Party of the 1970s, not any settlement movement. The same is true of the settlers north of the Dead Sea. When UN Envoy to the Middle East Nikolay Mladenov explains that Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria is at a low, but the protests from the Knesset peanut gallery are at a height, it is worth taking note.


Issam Akel detained by the PA on suspicion of selling lands to Jews
Issam Akel detained by the PA on suspicion of selling lands to Jews


In order to understand the reality of East Jerusalem, one must acknowledge the scandal that is the kidnapping of Issam Akel. For two months, Akel, a resident of East Jerusalem and an American citizen, has been detained by the Palestinian Authority. The pretext for this detention is the "suspicion" that he sold property to Jews, which in Ramallah can result in the death penalty. Obviously, the Palestinian Authority has no power in East Jerusalem, for residents like Issam Akel or for real estate transactions, and just imagine how any other sovereign state would react when one of its resident was kidnapped from its capital. What does this Beit Hanina resident have to do with national security? Nothing. Human rights organizations and Arab MKs who are close to the PA (see Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh) ignore Akel's case because he is on the wrong side. Respect for human rights is only demanded of Israel.


Akel might be just one person, but ignoring what happened to him speaks volumes.


פרסום ראשון: 12.22.18, 23:20
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