The Times of Israel
David Horovitz

Editor's Note from

David Horovitz

Dear Times of Israel Community,

In 2022, between late March and early May, 21 people were killed in a stream of attacks by Palestinian and Arab Israeli terrorists inside Israel and in the West Bank — in Jerusalem, Beersheba, Hadera, Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv, Ariel and Elad. As the death toll soared, the IDF launched what it initially codenamed “Breaking the Wave” — for which it called in additional forces and markedly intensified its anti-terror activities in the West Bank, working to thwart further attacks and arrest terror operatives identified by the Shin Bet.

The operation indeed broke that particular surging wave of terror, and the IDF quietly stopped using the codename, but the nightly IDF raids have continued ever since — across the West Bank, often with a particular focus on longtime hotbeds of terrorism in Nablus and Jenin. In total, some 280 Palestinians have been killed since the spring of 2022 — almost all, though not all, of them gunmen and terror suspects; in 2022, some 2,500 suspects were detained.

The body of a Palestinian terrorist is seen covered in a black plastic bag at the scene of an attack in which four Israelis were killed at a gas station near the Eli settlement in the West Bank. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Yesterday’s attack at the Eli settlement gas station, in which four Israelis were shot dead by two Palestinian terrorists, underlined, as security chiefs continually stress, that the battle against terrorism is relentless, and that there is no such thing as 100  percent success. The Shin Bet says it has foiled some 375 “significant attacks” — a term that encompasses intended shootings, bombings and kidnappings — so far this year, including 300 planned shootings. This one, it did not manage to foil.

The high death toll at Eli, the apparent simplicity with which the attack was carried out — and the fact that it came after the IDF was drawn into a heavy battle in Jenin the night before, in which eight IDF troops were injured by a powerful roadside bomb — are prompting calls from some within the coalition and from settler leaders for wider, harsher military action, and complaints that the IDF is reluctant to tackle Palestinian terrorism with the necessary force.

Relatives and friends mourn during the funeral of 17-year-old Nahman Mordoff, at the cemetery in the West Bank settlement of Shilo on June 21, 2023. Mordoff was one of four Israelis killed in a terrorist attack by Palestinian gunmen the previous day. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

But the IDF, of course, is the operational arm of the elected government. There should be no doubt that security chiefs continually present the political echelon with options for operations small and large, brief and protracted, tactical and strategic. It is the responsibility of the political leadership, and especially the prime minister and the defense minister, to weigh those options.

The IDF will doubtless maintain and indeed likely step up its West Bank activities. It moved quickly to deploy additional forces in the wake of the Eli attack. Some of its forces were then immediately required to tackle settler extremists rampaging in Palestinian towns and villages, burning fields and cars and setting a house on fire.

A man checks a burnt car, reportedly set ablaze by Israeli settlers, in the area of Luban a-Sharqiya in the West Bank on June 21, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP)

The question is whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will opt for more far-reaching steps. Potential options such as a major IDF operation in the northern West Bank, the cancellation of some or all of the 17,000 work permits for Gazans as a means of pressuring Hamas (which claimed both of yesterday’s terrorists as its members), and the targeted killing of Hamas leaders in Gaza, all come with a price. As Tamir Hayman, the recently retired head of IDF Military Intelligence, stressed on Channel 12 last night, what’s crucial is the guiding strategy.

Military officials in recent days and weeks have highlighted the vast availability of weaponry in the West Bank, citing Iran’s role in facilitating and financing the smuggling of arms, from Syria and beyond, across the Jordanian border, alongside hitherto largely unsuccessful efforts to manufacture rockets inside the West Bank. They have also cited the ongoing rise of Hamas, as the Palestinian Authority grows weaker.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a security consultation after the terror attack at Eli on June 20, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Notably, as of this writing, the prime minister has not convened the key decision-making security cabinet — whose membership includes far-right senior ministers Bezalel Smotrich (to whom Netanyahu just bequeathed immense new authority to expand settlements) and Itamar Ben Gvir, both of whom seek the annexation of the entire West Bank. Ben Gvir rushed to the scene of the terror attack last night to demand that the government “return to targeted assassinations from the air, bring down buildings, erect roadblocks, expel terrorists…”

Evidently, the prime minister, never a military adventurer, wants cool heads around him, including the defense minister he notoriously fired and later restored.

He, and all we Israelis — so bitterly riven over the governance, values, goals and direction of this country — in turn desperately need a unity of purpose in the face of Hamas, Iran and other murderous enemies.


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