Israel Policy Insight is an ongoing series of Israel Policy Forum and Israel Policy Exchange. Each installment will feature answers to questions about the past week’s news from an Israeli security expert, bringing their unique perspective on issues of security and diplomacy in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the wider Middle East region. Have your own questions? E-mail email@example.com.
This week, Israel Policy Insight highlights the insights of Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amnon Reshef. Maj. Gen. Reshef was the commanding general of Israel’s Armored Corps and served in the Yom Kippur War. Today, he is the chairman of Commanders for Israel’s Security, a network of over 280 former high-ranking generals from the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet, Mossad, and Israel Police who advocate steps to preserve a future two-state solution. His work has been published in numerous outlets, including The New York Times, Ynet News, Israel Hayom, and The Times of Israel.
1. Earlier this week rockets from Gaza struck in the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva. How will Israel respond to this?
Had anyone been injured, or worse, killed by the rockets from Gaza, the response would likely have been a full military intervention in the Gaza Strip. Fortunately, there were no Israeli casualties. We likely have Miri Tamano, an Israeli mother of three, to thank for this. Her house sustained a direct hit from a Gaza missile, but she was able to get her children into the family’s bomb shelter just in time. Because of this, the Israeli government will likely continue to limit the scope of any military activities in the Strip until it is pressured to escalate. There is no long-term strategy, and plans are essentially made on an ad hoc basis.
It’s notable that Hamas and Islamic Jihad released a joint statement denying responsibility for the incident. Regardless of who fired the rockets in the most recent round of attacks, any Israeli military response will hold Hamas accountable as the de facto government of the Strip.
These appalling incidents demonstrate two things. First, Israel cannot forever remain entangled with Palestinians’ daily lives. As long as we do, we expose ourselves to terrorists with no apparent gain for ourselves. On the other hand, there can be no immediate withdrawal from the territories without a permanent status agreement. But no serious politician, even on the center-left, is advocating for the sudden or unilateral evacuation of troops and settlers. The Commanders for Israel’s Security program promotes a responsible and gradual approach.
The majority of Israelis are tired of dealing with terrorism. That is why separation commands a majority of the public opinion. As much as terrorism increases skepticism about the Palestinians as peace partners, it also decreases the public’s appetite to be intertwined with their everyday affairs. That is why we released our Security First plan in 2016.
3. A Palestinian woman was stoned to death, likely by Israeli settlers, near Nablus a few days back. How does such homegrown terrorism develop in Israel, and how can the government better confront it?
The Shin Bet has opened an investigation into this attack. If it was carried out by Israelis, it should be confronted with the same vigor with which we approach Palestinian terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism, and regardless of the offender’s national identity, it undermines the rule of law and the security of the State of Israel. In the past, settlers have engaged in what they call “price-tag attacks:” that is, their actions are the “price-tag” for Palestinian attacks against Israelis. But when settlers attack Palestinians, they are really providing a powerful recruiting tool for Palestinian and Islamic terrorist groups in the territories. I have complete faith in the Shin Bet to conduct this investigation in a professional manner.