Tidbits From Israel
By Ron Jager
Realizing that Israel cannot be defeated on the battlefield, the Palestinian Arabs have employed terror as a preferred method of destroying Israel from within. Terror has emerged as a strategic threat against Israel and should be responded to with the perseverance and gravity that all existential threats warrant. The release of 1,027 convicted terrorists in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit last year arose from a misguided moral dilemma that puts a premium on one life, yet endangers the lives of many others; the tragic ending to the kidnapping of our three boys, Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Sha’ar, 16, and Naftali Frenkel, 16, who were cold-bloodedly murdered by terrorists released in exchange for Gilad Shalit, places the implications of this enormous moral dilemma into focus. The only rational conclusion from this latest barbaric act of meaningless terror should be that the Israeli public demand of our leaders that in cases of terrorists committing premeditated murder, the government should invoke capital punishment—or, in street language, the death penalty.
On Monday night, all of Israel heard that the bodies of the kidnapped boys were discovered just outside of Halhoul, a small Palestinian Arab village north of the town of Hebron. The internal Jewish debate raging in Israel boils down to this—should Israel respond forcibly by eliminating whoever has any connection to the kidnapping or respond with restraint? This debate has tended to overshadow the more important story of how the Arabs living among us continue to use “Palestinian culture” as a calling card in which the shedding of Jewish blood is a prerequisite for both heroism and political credibility. The Arab celebration of the kidnapping and murder of our three boys throughout Judea and Samaria has made it all too apparent that those who murder innocent children in the name of Allah are not partners to any kind of rational dialogue, let alone restraint. Moreover, the strengthening of Hamas by their “achievement” in successfully reaping the benefits of the kidnapping has further strengthened the appeal of violence for all Arabs. By invoking the death penalty, we can lessen the perceived benefits and sense of “victory” from the shedding of Jewish blood.
Reports emanating from the White House, the State Department, and European capitals have all called for Israel to respond with “maximum restraint.” The world, it seems, as Gil Troy has written, wants Israel to be a defenseless Jewish state. A defenseless Jewish state would not incarcerate those responsible for mass murderers at a Sbarro pizzeria or a Passover Seder at the Park Hotel. A defenseless Jewish state would not risk the lives of Egyptian soldiers, even if it meant not firing at Palestinian terrorist attackers. A defenseless Jewish state would not retaliate against the Hamas terrorists ruling Gaza. A defenseless Jewish state would not object to Mahmoud Abbas paying the salaries and benefits of terrorists incarcerated in Israeli jails for the murder of innocent Israelis or for glorifying terrorists killed by the IDF. A defenseless Jewish state would not inconvenience the Arab world’s liberal leftist appeasers and useful idiots. Instituting the death penalty would provide the most effective deterrence and reject the demand of Israel being singled out by the world to refrain from executing convicted terrorists and murderers. By invoking the death penalty, Israel would ensure that Arab terrorists are held accountable for their murderous behavior, making any future tradeoffs and early release impossible.
The death penalty is allowable under Israeli law and does not require new legislation. By refraining from exercising the death penalty, we are sending the wrong message to our enemies. Paving the way for a future clemency to Arab murderers will result in an additional loss of public faith in the justice system, which is a pillar of any democratic society. Without popular confidence in the justice system, future terror and the ensuing response by vigilantism will become viable alternatives. One of the central purposes of the criminal justice system is for the state to wrest responsibility for serving justice out of the hands of the injured party. But if the state repeatedly demonstrates that it cannot be trusted to mete out justice, individuals are liable to begin doing so themselves. Instituting the death penalty would preempt this intervention and leave the decisions handed down by the courts in response to wanton acts of terror and murder as final and impervious to political intervention.
As noted by Stewart Weiss, director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana, Judaism and Jewish history are an amalgam of glory and grief, celebration and sadness. Remembrance Day and Independence Day are rolled into one. Yizkor memorial prayers are recited on Simchat Torah. The breaking of a glass punctuates a joyous wedding celebration; bitter herbs and salt water are a part of our Passover Seder. Blessing and bitterness, it appears, always seem to operate in tandem. So it is with the tragedy of the kidnapping and cold-blooded murder of our three boys. The achdut ha’am, the way we all felt as if these three boys were our sons, and the inspiring and righteous behavior of their families evoked the strength and unity of Am Yisrael. v
Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty in 2005, he has been providing consultancy services to NGOs, implementing psychological trauma treatment programs in Israel. Ron currently serves as a strategic adviser to the chief foreign envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact him, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ronjager.com.