On Sunday, just hours after an east Jerusalem Palestinian shot and killed two Israelis in the capital, politicians hit the airwaves.
Some called to punish residents of Silwan, the east Jerusalem neighborhood where the terrorist came from. Others called to immediately authorize the construction of homes in Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Agriculture Minister and Bayit Yehudi member Uri Ariel said: “Massive building and removing from the heart of our enemies the idea that we will ever move from a united Jerusalem… will minimize the potential for attacks in Jerusalem.”
Bayit Yehudi MK Mordechai Yogev said: “Every attack requires a Zionist response of authorizing new building plans in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.”
This has happened before.
After the brutal murder of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called on the government to build in the settlements. A few days later, the government approved the publication of a tender to build 42 additional homes in Kiryat Arba.
In November 2012, when the UN voted to upgrade “Palestine” to non-member observer, it took less than 24 hours for the government to announce plans for 3,000 housing units in east Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
This is mistaken policy. They might not realize it, but by calling for construction of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria in response to a terrorist attack, Ariel and Yogev are basically admitting that Israeli construction in the West Bank is a punitive measure and an obstacle to peace. They are also contributing to the depiction of Israel as the guilty party in the ongoing impasse in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Terrorist attacks must be met with resolve and force and steps must be taken to prevent future attacks and secure Israeli citizens. It could be that building new homes in a settlement contributes to that purpose and advances that objective, but that is not how policy should be set.
Israel should not build on its historic land because people are killed or terrorist attacks are perpetrated.
It should build if it decides that construction in those disputed areas is the right policy for the country.
If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concedes to the Bayit Yehudi pressure, he will be providing ammunition to Israel’s detractors around the world who could to use this case to prove that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not because it is the historic homeland of the Jewish people but rather a punishment to the Palestinian people.
Two veteran politicians, Ariel and Yogev know this.
But they also know that Netanyahu will be under pressure to take action and respond to Sunday’s attack. They know Netanyahu might actually give in to their demands considering the pressure he is already facing from the Right over the scheduled evacuation of Amona.
The real problem is that Israel lacks a clear and decisive policy of what it wants. Instead of deciding, the government maneuvers between declaring that it wants to negotiate a two-state solution with the Palestinians while at the same time continuing to build in the same territory where the Palestinian state supposedly would be created.
Israel owes itself a decision. Does it want to establish a Palestinian state – a move that would require major concessions and territorial withdrawals – or does it prefer to annex the West Bank and continue building in Jewish communities there. Or is there possibly a third option, or even a fourth? The current approach, of not deciding, not only does not work but also causes Israel severe diplomatic damage as seen by the recent brouhaha with the United States over the construction of 98 homes in Shiloh as replacements for the residents of Amona.
Yom Kippur is a time for decision making. It is a day of reflection on the past, but also of contemplation over how we want the future to look. Israel is living in a reality of indecision. Now is the time to change that.