Urging Diplomatic Solutions Isn’t “Encouraging Terror” — Just Ask the IDF

Benjy Cannon Image
Benjy Cannon
on February 26, 2016

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A few weeks ago, in the New York Times, UN Chief Ban Ki Moon wrote that it was “inconceivable that security measures alone could end the violence” currently engulfing Israelis and Palestinians. He said that the almost fifty-year occupation was bound to produce the kind of despair that sometimes breeds violence. Netanyahu, in response, accused Ban’s comments of giving a “tailwind to terror.” His Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, went a step further, saying that Ban “encourages terror.”

Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Post reported that Directorate Major General Herzl Halevi, Chief IDF Military Intelligence Officer, submitted a report to the Israeli cabinet that concluded that: “In the event that the diplomacy and peace talks don’t begin to offset the efforts of security forces, there is a danger that others will join the wave of Palestinian terror.”

By Netanyahu and Danon’s logic, the IDF top-brass, like Ban, is encouraging terror.

Ban and Halevi are making the same basic argument: terror, including this latest round, is motivated in part by the lack of movement towards a peaceful resolution, and cannot be solved without one. Even as we recognize the UN’s history of bias against Israel, when it comes to the question of how best Israel can combat Palestinian terrorism, it’s clear that the UN Chief and the IDF Directorate Major General are on the same page. And it’s Netanyahu’s government that’s out of touch.

While I haven’t seen Netanyahu or Danon respond to Halevi’s report, I wouldn’t expect the government to accuse its own military of fomenting terrorism. This hasn’t stopped some of most right-wing members of Israel’s government from insisting that the IDF stay out of politics, but they’ve reserved their harshest words for Ban Ki Moon and Ambassador Shapiro. The whole incident underscores the absurdity of Israeli rhetoric directed against its friends who share the concerns of its own army about the security costs of the current political void.

Israel’s friends, as well as its military, have been aware of those costs for a long time. In 1988 IDF Chief of Staff Dan Shomron stated that the first intifada “could not be quelled by military means alone.” Shomron held firm, resisting calls from from the right-wing for the then-chief of Central Command, Major General Amram Mitzna, be removed from his post “for telling the Cabinet that the intifada could not be retained by force.” The Gatekeepers — the groundbreaking documentary film about Israel’s security establishment — featured six former Shin Bet heads carrying the same message: the only solution to this conflict and the horrific violence it breeds is a comprehensive solution.

This insight isn’t new. But Halevi’s comments serve as another important reminder, in a long list of important reminders, that security and peace aren’t polar opposites — they’re one and the same. Far from encouraging terrorism, working towards — and actually bringing about — a peaceful solution would be an effective weapon against it.

In that sense, the “debate” over Israel’s future isn’t between hawks and doves, it’s between those who insist on the dogged pursuit of a peaceful, permanent solution and those who look for every excuse to delay one. The Israeli security establishment, the United Nations and many Israelis and Palestinians stand for peace and security, because we recognize that only a final status agreement can provide either one.

Benjy Cannon is the 2015-2016 Mikva Fellow at J Street. He’s on Twitter at @benjycannon