We deserve thought-out policies that can bring an end to the current cycle of violence and prevent the next.
By Ilan Manor
Henry Ford once said that thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. Over the past few days, some Israelis have felt that their elected officials in the Knesset have given up on thinking all together. First came the revelation that our elected representatives in the Knesset approved the state budget in a preliminary vote without even having the opportunity to read it and understand what they were voting on. This was followed by a legislative committee decision to approve a proposal allowing first-time apartment buyers to take out mortgages for up to 90 percent of the value of the apartment, despite the role such irresponsible loans played in the devastating 2008 financial crisis.
Yet it was the reaction of three senior members in the Netanyahu government to last week’s horrid murder of four men in a Jerusalem synagogue that truly demonstrates the intellectual paralysis that has spread through the Israeli leadership.
The first to offer a solution to the escalating cycle of Palestinian violence was Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, who proposed easing gun permit regulations enabling more Israelis to carry arms in the streets, including former IDF officers and veterans of elite army units.
Aharonovich’s policy, even if limited to IDF veterans, is sure to achieve one thing: more violence. The fact that lax gun ownership regulations actually decrease general safety has been proven time and again. America’s schools, university campuses and cities are far more dangerous than Israeli or European ones given the fact that Americans have the right to bear arms and purchase semi-automatic weapons in department stores. Distributing weapons to a society that suffers from a collective form of PTSD and is in constant fear of its impending doom is counterproductive to say the least. Not to mention the fact that the Public Security Ministry actually contemplated making gun ownership regulations more strict following a reported increase in domestic violence.
The second minister to offer a solution to last week’s terror attack was Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who called for the immediate demolition of the terrorists’ homes. Unlike Lapid, and the line of other officials who came up with the same demand, there are those who have contemplated the effectiveness of this measure. Two IDF special commissions, one assembled in 2003 and another in 2005, found that demolishing terrorist’s homes only increases hatred towards Israel and actually leads to more terror attacks. The commissions, therefore, recommended that Israel avoid taking such measures in the future. But what does the IDF know about security when compared to former television news anchor Lapid?
Finally, it was Prime Minister Netanyahu who stated last week that what Israel needs in these difficult times is a national unity government consisting of parties from Israel’s left and right wings. It is unclear why in a time when most Israelis expect action rather than words the prime minister would propose to form a government that would no-doubt be characterized by inaction — one that would be unable to agree on any course of action, carry out decisions or successfully contend with the cause of Palestinian violence.
Israelis deserve more than half-baked ideas and knee jerk reactions from their elected leadership. They deserve meticulously thought-out policy that can bring an end to the current cycle of violence and prevent the next. A policy that hopefully will be based on a return to the negotiating table.
But thinking, as Ford said, is hard work which is probably why so few of our leaders engage in it.
Ilan Manor is finishing his MA studies in Communication at Tel Aviv University. He has previously contributed to the 972 Magazine, the Jewish Daily Forward and Haaretz. He blogs at www.digdipblog.com