Shooting attack reveals uncomfortable truths about Israel’s options for peace

The Israeli town of Bat Hefer backdropped by the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, situated on the western edge of northern Samaria, Jan. 4, 2024. Photo by Shahar Yaari/Flash90.

by Moshe Phillips

Nobody in the State Department, or the United Nations, or at J Street headquarters, is talking about the recent terrorist shooting attack on the Israeli town of Bat Hefer, less than 12 miles from the coastal town of Netanya. Because it shattered the premise at the heart of all their proposals concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Hamas terrorists standing within the municipal boundaries of Tulkarm, a Palestinian Authority-governed city, unleashed a barrage of gunfire aimed at the nearby Israeli town of Bat Hefer. Then they posted a video of the shooting on social media.

It was the third such shooting attack on Bat Hefer in two weeks. The Times of Israel pointed out that there have been similar attacks targeting Kibbutz Meirav, which is next to the PA city of Jenin. Once again, terrorists within the boundaries of the city were able to shoot into an Israeli community without ever having to go beyond the borders of their PA-ruled city.

These incidents lay bare the flaws in the ongoing crusade by the Biden Administration and J Street to establish a Palestinian state. The statehood proponents try to reassure the Jewish public by using vague, soothing terms such as “security guarantees” and “demilitarization.” But those words are worthless. No Arab regime has ever been demilitarized, and nobody can “guarantee” Israel’s security — because there is no government on earth that will ever have the political will to step in and forcibly demilitarize or guarantee anything.

Look at the shootings at Bat Hefer and Kibbutz Meirav. The terrorists opened fire, and then quickly disappeared into the alleyways and safe houses of Tulkarm and Jenin. Where were the police? The PA has a huge police and security force. Why didn’t they arrest the shooters?

When the PA signed the Oslo Accords back in 1993 to 1995, it explicitly undertook the obligation to act against terrorists. The text of Oslo II requires the PA security forces to “apprehend, investigate and prosecute perpetrators and all other persons directly or indirectly involved in acts of terrorism, violence and incitement.” (Annex I, Article II, 3-c).

The PA has more than enough manpower to do the job. The original 12,000-man police force that the Accords authorized have illegally ballooned into a 60,000-man de-facto army. That makes it the sixth-largest per-capita security force in the world — 1,250 “police officers” per 100,000 people.

Yet the PA refuses to use its forces against terrorists. It treats Hamas like its brothers, not its enemies. So the shooters in Tulkarm and Jenin went on their merry way. These are the kinds of attacks that force Israeli soldiers to periodically enter the PA-governed areas in hot pursuit of the would-be murderers.

Right now, when the PA is not a sovereign state, the entry of Israeli forces into PA areas results in angry UN resolutions and angry articles by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, but nothing worse than that.

But things would be very, very different if there is a sovereign state of Palestine. Jenin and Tulkarm would be part of Palestine. They would have to be. There’s no way that the PA is going to turn over its fourth-largest and sixth-largest cities to Israeli rule.

So the terrorists shooting at Bat Hefer or Kibbutz Meirav would be shooting from within sovereign Palestinian territory. Meaning that Israel would be crossing an international border if it tried to chase the shooters. Violating another country’s sovereignty is a serious matter. Israel could face international sanctions — and possibly even military action by neighboring Arab regimes.

It’s also important to keep another factor in mind. If Jenin and Tulkarm are filled with terrorists now, just imagine how much worse it would be if Jenin and Tulkarm were part of a State of Palestine. All sorts of weapons would flow freely into the city. Who is going to stop that? UN peacekeepers? J Street staff members? Thomas Friedman?

So don’t expect any of Israel’s critics to say anything about the shooting attacks on Bat Hefer and Kibbutz Meirav. The premise of everything they say is that Israelis can trust that a Palestinian state will be peaceful. These latest shootings are a reminder, yet again, that the exact opposite is true.

Moshe Phillips is a past board member of the American Zionist Movement and served as a delegate to the 38th World Zionist Congress.