Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of January 19, 2000

ABDICATING RESPONSIBILITY

By David Bar-Illan

'For the sake of peace,' our government allows wholesale
theft to the PA of anything movable

The terrorist bombing in Hadera on Monday, the third of its kind in recent months, got little notice. That only 26 people were lightly wounded by the bomb made it not much more of an event than a major traffic accident. It was soon dropped from the news.

Other items hardly made the news at all. Israeli beekeepers, deprived of their livelihood because Palestinians have stolen their beehives (to the tune of NIS 4 million last year alone), are blocking roads from the PA areas. They are vowing to prevent Palestinian laborers from working in Israel. The media have found this barely newsworthy.

Half of the recently imported Chevrolet Suburban luxury cars, selling for NIS 350,000 each, have been stolen by Palestinians and hustled to Palestinian Authority areas, despite highly sophisticated electronic devices supposed to render them theft-proof. One such car, stolen last week, is known to be in the possession of a PA bigwig's relative.

No serious effort is made by the government to stop the theft of the 40,000 cars that disappear every year into the PA areas. Nor is there a real effort to retrieve them from the Palestinian officials, officers, and businessmen who buy the vehicles from the thieves, often specifying the make, year, color, and size of the car they want, as if they were ordering from an automobile showroom.

The common denominator in all these items is that they are about crimes abetted and encouraged by Israel's neighbors. The Hadera bombing was perpetrated by Islamic Jihad terrorists whose headquarters are in Damascus, where Syrian authorities allow this and other organizations to activate terrorist squads in the Palestinian areas. The PA does little to prevent this activity. Almost never initiating action against the terror groups, it restricts its cooperation with Israeli security services to acting on Israeli information.

A recent dragnet by Israeli forces succeeded in apprehending a large number of Islamic Jihad and Hamas operatives in areas administered by the PA. This undoubtedly saved lives, but such raids will be impossible once these areas come under Palestinian security control. NOR has the PA done anything to discourage the wholesale theft of cars, agricultural machinery, electric appliances, cattle, sheep, beehives, and anything else that can be moved from areas under Israeli jurisdiction.

The bald-faced openness with which these crimes are committed recalls anarchic practices in some Third World countries. And the Israeli government, invoking the sacredness of the peace process, shamelessly acquiesces in these criminal acts.

Whenever a car is stolen from a prominent Israeli, Arab Knesset members are asked to arrange the vehicle's return through the PA police. Such incidents are then reported in Israeli gossip columns as amusing anecdotes. Such callous tolerance of robbery will inevitably grow into general contempt for the law.

It's not as if Israel is unable to do anything about this. To demand that the Syrians close down all terrorist offices in Damascus before negotiations proceed is not only reasonable, but precisely what every other nation would do. Just as reasonable would be a demand to implement a cease-fire in South Lebanon during the talks. The chief of Army Intelligence said on Monday that the Syrians have given the Hizbullah a green light to continue operations in Lebanon. Obviously, they can change it to red if they wish.

Israel can also suspend all payments to the PA as long as it encourages robbery. The effect on the thefts will be stunning. The first duty of the government is to afford its citizens protection from crime. But Israeli governments seem to believe this obligation excludes Palestinian crimes. During the Netanyahu government, the beekeepers turned to the Agriculture Ministry, where they were told to go to the Internal Security Ministry, where they were told the police could not guard every beehive.

They then appealed directly to the PA, where they were laughed at and told, "We Palestinians never steal." Now, flat broke and unwilling to meekly join the ranks of the victims of peace, they are threatening to block roads and "paralyze the state."

One day, experts in mass psychology will shake their heads in wonderment over this precipitous loss of national resolve. They will probably conclude that only Israel's irrational defensiveness about its rights, and an obsessive fear of Arab retreat from the negotiations, can explain the abdication of responsibility by Israeli governments during the years of the peace process.

(c) Jerusalem Post 2000

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David Bar-Illan is the former editor of The Jerusalem Post and Communication and Public Policy Planning director in the Netanyahu government.



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