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The only thing scarier than terror is the leadership vacuum

Israelis need to realize that neither Abbas nor the PA, nor Hamas are responsible for Israelis’ security. Israeli leaders are — and they are failing miserably.

An Israeli bus driver uses toilet paper to clean blood from the entrance of his bus following a stabbing attack, Jerusalem, October 12, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An Israeli bus driver uses toilet paper to clean blood from the entrance of his bus following a stabbing attack, Jerusalem, October 12, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The sense of terror and anxiety has become palpable everywhere. The fear is visceral. The consistent flow of news alerts and bloody videos informing of another attack and another attack is paralyzing. I’m practically living inside my Twitter feed, looking on in horror at the events.

The Palestinians going out to stab Israelis every day — many of them teenagers — are on veritable suicide missions. It’s like there’s a zombie movie happening on loop out there: people walking around with knifes or sharp objects, using whatever they can muster to inflict harm and then poof, they disappear.

Even in my bubble in Jaffa, where things are ostensibly calm, where Jews and Palestinians walk and work side by side in a shared space, where my son spends time in playgrounds with Palestinian and Jewish kids who have Palestinian and Jewish nannies, I find myself looking over my shoulder. Not because I necessarily think something will happen. But because this is the effect of terror, plain and simple — the feeling that you could be targeted at any moment, anywhere.

It’s much worse than the 2014 summer, when I gave birth to my first son amid sirens, daily Israeli casualties, and the massive death and destruction of Palestinians in Gaza being carried out in my name. This time there are no sirens to warn you of an oncoming attack, and no Iron Dome to thwart the stabbings. It is happening spontaneously all over the place, not just in Jerusalem or settlements, but inside the heart of 1948 Israel.

Palestinians, I hear, are also scared shitless. They aren’t just facing harassment and violence from Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank and increasingly inside Israel proper, but also from police and other security officials. They are all suspect. They have no representation. Their lives hang on the whims of the Israeli government and its agents. That is scary.

It is chaos. A running national trauma on both sides. And the only thing scarier than what is going on is that the Israeli leadership is directly responsible for the situation. Netanyahu was reelected last March on a platform of continued occupation and increasing institutionalized discrimination inside Israel proper, all while wiping out any chance for a diplomatic resolution. On election night he complained that Palestinian citizens were going out to vote in drove —  inciting unabashedly against 20 percent of the population he represents as prime minister. And then he complains of Palestinian incitement.

Netanyahu is one of the most dangerous people for Jews in Israel and worldwide. I have been attacked on Twitter for saying as much, and for not condemning Abbas. But what Israelis must realize is that neither Abbas nor the PA, nor Hamas are responsible for Israelis’ security. Israeli leaders are — and they are failing miserably.

An officer from a special Israeli police unit at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, October 13, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An officer from a special Israeli police unit at the scene of a terror attack in Jerusalem, October 13, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Worse yet, the more Israeli blood is shed, the stronger the far-right seems to be getting. A poll last week by Channel 2 news showed that Israelis believe the person most suited to deal with the situation is Avigdor Liberman, in second place Naftali Bennett, then Netanyahu. Liberman, who has in the past called for disloyal Palestinian citizens to be “decapitated,” and who advocates population transfer, called for a total military lockdown on Palestinians in East Jerusalem. But when you look at the fact that opposition leader Isaac Herzog has called for the exact same thing, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between any of the Jewish political parties. None of them have any good ideas to offer.

Netanyahu’s cabinet Tuesday evening authorized the police to impose closures, revoke the residency of Palestinians who commit murder and to seize their property, in addition to the continued policy of home demolitions. These steps are not new. They have already been taken at various times to varying degrees. Issawiya, for example, is subject to regular closures and blockades. So why is it is supposed to suddenly be effective now? The steps Netanyahu is taking are being played up to make Israelis feel like the government is doing something.

The failure of the Israeli leadership is so tragically evident in Jerusalem, where the state is incapable of providing security. Instead of admitting this, the government could recognize, at least nominally for now, the Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem (absolutely unheard of across the political spectrum in Israel), which would go a long way, the leadership is pressing on with more of the same. Even as it is evident that the “unified, undivided capital” they have been boasting for nearly 50 years is so obviously divided and unequal, under the rule of an Israeli government that privileges Jews. A perfect microcosm of what is going on from the river to the sea.

As a Palestinian friend of mine from East Jerusalem told me:

I am puzzled. The provocation of the police in Jerusalem is beyond imagination. It is almost as if they are looking to get people to the point of madness. Last night they arrested two minor girls. Didn’t inform their families. People thought settlers kidnapped them. Later they were released. But in the meantime hundreds of men were enraged. I don’t get the end game of this.

That is because there is no endgame. It will likely get  much worse still. The question is if Israelis will begin to realize that more of the same will only lead to further horrors.

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    1. You are welcomed in Canada Maybe your new promised land I am a messanger from God I have been in the sojourn of the dead (Tibethan Book of the dead) in the Christian Hell I saw paradice There are seven I experienced Bouddha states I have heard the voiceless and toneless voice of God speaking to me in absolute silence telling me that we are is puppets. Again you are welcomed in canada We have a lot of room and ices will melt because of
      global warming and free more land for humanity Shalom Shalom Shalom May peace be with you I pray for you and the palestinians

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “Netanyahu is one of the most dangerous people for Jews in Israel and worldwide.”

      All you have to do is look at the headlines in the *relatively* moderately right wing, American-centered, Jerusalem Post (let’s ignore C. Glick and her pal S. Honig for the moment, shall we? And Fatuous Freund too) to see what even the more sensible cadres of the Right are thinking:

      ————————–
      JPOST
      Experts weigh in: How can Israel quash this wave of terror? Former national security adviser Uzi Dayan: Now is the time to fight back, rather than talking about long-term issues.
      ————————–

      Well. Heaven forbid we talk about “long term issues” the very labeling as such indicating a “managing the conflict indefinitely, that’s us, we’ve got time” mentality. That’ll work out swell. I mean, it’s as if they *were* talking to the Palestinians about long term issues before this latest grass roots uprising. They were not. They were telling the Palestinians to shove it.

      Reply to Comment