Finally, finally we’ve got some push back against the increasingly vulgar practice of some foreign leaders second-guessing Israeli security operations. This is long overdue.
The penchant to pronounce judgment on every Israeli counter-terror incident is becoming quite a fun blood sport for the unfriendly-to-Israel crowd and it extends to non-military matters too.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz followed the lead of former prime minister and defense minister Naftali Bennett Sept. 8 in repulsing the State Department’s call for a change in IDF rules of engagement in Judea and Samaria or the West Bank.
“We’re going to continue to press our Israeli partners to closely review its policies and practices on rules of engagement and consider additional steps to mitigate the risk of civilian harm, protect journalists and prevent similar tragedies in the future,” U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said. “That is a key goal for us.”
He went on to demand “accountability” from the Israeli military, not just the taking of responsibility by Israel, regarding the shooting of Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akleh during a firefight between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian terrorists in May. This apparently means that Washington wants some Israeli soldiers scalped and impaled on a spike for all to see.
Bennett made a rare foray out of his self-imposed cone of silence to take a well-deserved whack at Washington. The decision as to when and how Israel Defense Forces soldiers use live fire will be determined only by Israeli army commanders and not the White House, he defiantly responded.
“At any given moment there are Palestinian terrorists trying to murder Israelis, not the other way around,” Bennett added. “Our hand is not light on the trigger, but there is a moral imperative to strike terrorists to save human lives.”
A day later Lapid added that “No one will dictate our live-fire instructions to us when we are fighting for our lives. I will not let a fighter in the (Israel Defense Forces) who defended his life under fire from terrorists be prosecuted just so that we will receive applause abroad.”
Indeed, it seems that Israeli friends and foes abroad alike need to be reminded that a series of Palestinian terrorist attacks killed 19 Israelis between March and May, driving the Israel Defense Forces onto the offensive.
The Israel Defense Forces has been forced into nightly operations against terrorist cells across the West Bank, especially in Jenin and Nablus where the Palestinian Authority has lost all control. Israeli troops repeatedly have come under heavy gunfire during these raids in which 1,500 terrorists and terrorist suspects have been arrested and quite a few assailants killed.
“Our test is protecting the citizens of Israel, and our mission is to thwart terrorism. We will reach every city, neighborhood, alley, house or basement for that purpose,” asserted Israel Defense Forces chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi Sept. 5. “Our activity will continue and we are prepared to intensify it as needed.”
Nonetheless, foreign attempts to interfere in Israel’s security posture and operations continue. Secretary of State Antony Blinken personally has pressed Israeli officials about Israel Defense Forces’ rules of engagement and the American embassy in Israel reportedly is “investigating” the record of the Israel Defense Forces’ Netzach Yehuda battalion, which has been embroiled in several problematic shooting and beating incidents including the death of another Palestinian-American dual citizen, 78-year-old Omar As’ad.
Acting with similar chutzpah, diplomats from 19 European countries insolently demanded explanations from Israel in August regarding an Israel Defense Forces raid on the offices of seven Palestinian non-governmental organizations that Israel has classified as terror groups affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The European diplomats impudently declared they did not accept Israel’s terror designation, barking that they had not received “any evidence” to validate that claim.
Apparently, the plucky, expert and high-minded European diplomats know better than Israel about the inner workings and plotting of Palestinian terrorist-supporting groups. Therefore, they insistently are going to continue bankrolling these agencies. So there, Israel.
U.S. and European diplomats likewise have taken to more-loudly-than-ever judging and criticizing Israel’s security and settlement operations in eastern Jerusalem, in places like Shimon Hatzadik, Sheikh Jarrah, Ir David, Silwan and, of course, Har Habayit, the Temple Mount, itself.
With regards to the latter holy site, the brave foreign critics have had a lot to say about Israeli police response to Arab rioters but very little to say about the Wakf/Palestinian Authority’s turning of the site into an armed camp for open warfare against Israel, not to mention regular incitement against Jews and Israel.
The Biden administration also seems to have opened a new front against Israel regarding foreign travel restrictions to the West Bank. Washington is upset by new regulations scheduled to take effect in October allowing Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to further control the entry of foreign students and lecturers to the West Bank and of foreign spouses married to Palestinians.
The criticism ignores the fact that 99% of such applications to visit and spend time in Palestinian towns and institutions generally are approved, with only a handful of visas disallowed to prevent the arrival of known anti-Israel agitators and troublemakers.
But U.S. ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said Sept. 4 he “expects” the government of Israel to make “necessary adjustments” to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories’s rules to ensure “fair and equal treatment of all U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals traveling to the West Bank.” This is code for saying: Israel can forget about being accepted into the U.S. visa waiver program, something promised by President Joe Biden, unless it eases its West Bank security protocols for Palestinians.
All this takes me back to the super-quick global criticism of Israel whenever the Israel Defense Forces gets into actual combat with the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The temerity and hypocrisy of such critics is simply astounding.
I ask: Just who exactly has the right to tell Israel how to defend its borders? Perhaps the EU or U.N. Security Council, neither of which has done diddly-squat about the 11 yearlong civil war slaughter in Syria or Iran’s subversive muckraking across the Middle East?
I say: Butt out. None of you have the right to jeer Israel’s defensive actions in the territories and along its borders, nor Israeli military operations beyond its borders, even if the Israel Defense Forces were to use devastating and indiscriminate force, which it isn’t.
Israel need not apologize for defending itself against Palestinian terrorist cells, Palestinian terror attack tunnels, Palestinian rocket barrages and yes, pro-terrorist anti-Israel non-governmental organizations. By the same token, Israel need not apologize for striking recurrently at Iranian commando posts and armament depots in Syria and Lebanon.
Israel also must never apologize for repeatedly reminding the world that Jews are not foreigners in their ancestral homeland. Israel is not an occupying force in the Sharon plains or the sand dunes of the Negev adjoining Gaza or the hilltops of Judea and Samaria or in Jerusalem. It has a right to defend its homeland without being subjected to cheeky censure and supercilious send-guessing.
Broadly speaking, I feel that the nations of the world ought to be exceedingly circumspect in telling Israel what to do, how to conduct its politics, where to erect its security fences, how to conduct its military campaigns, where to draw its borders and how to defend them or what ancestral lands to trade away – if at all.
Having failed the Jewish people throughout history all the way through the Holocaust; and having been so wrong with Pollyannaish hopes for the Oslo Accords, the Arab Spring and the nuclear deal with Iran, the nations of the world ought to give Israeli leaders the benefit of the doubt. They ought to respect Israeli decision-making, not sneer at it, when Israel’s leaders proceed cautiously in the diplomatic arena or act resolutely in the security sphere.
As former Prime Minister Menachem Begin once challenged and chastised the German chancellor, “Are we a vassal state? And would you prefer a weak Israel?”
David M. Weinberg is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. His website is davidmweinberg.com.
This column is presented by Schottenstein Stores Corp.