Another informative piece from our expert:
What Will the Israelis Do? Their Security Professionals Provide a Possible Answer
Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
“At first it was like ‘Oh No, they broke the Law’. They killed people, they wanted to blow up the country, etc. Later they said ‘they are our own flesh and blood’. Then the delegitimization process was transferred to the Shin Bet.” – Carmi Gillon; Head of Shin Bet, 1994 – 1996**
John asked earlier about what the Israelis will do in regard to what appears to be a revenge/reprisal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. Specifically he was interested in what would happen now that arrests have been made of a group of young Israeli extremists. The short answer is that Israel will follow the Rule of Law. The suspects will be held, interviewed by investigators and prosecutors, a determination will be made if this was murder or part of a more detailed and organized plot, and then charges will be brought and a trial will ensue. While the Israeli suspects are being referred to as extremists, current reporting indicates they were not part of an organized extremist group or organization. Rather they took matters into their own hands in response to the murders of three Israeli settler youth near Hebron.
The long-term answer is that we simply do not know. The quote at the top of the post is from a previous director of Shin Bet – Israel’s internal security agency. It is in reference to the Shin Bet’s successful investigation and arrest of the Jewish Underground, as well as the political aftermath of the conviction of the group’s members. The Jewish Underground members, several of whom had been planning since the late 1970s to blow up the Dome of the Rock, were tried, convicted, and sentenced to very long terms – up to life in prison, before a clemency law was passed in Knesset and they were released back into the community. The social, political, ethnic, and religious response to the Jewish Underground plotters may be one of the long-term outcomes.
Another, and I would think in this case equally, if not more likely outcome, maybe what happened to Yigal Amir. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. He’s not getting out any time soon. Given that the abduction and murder of the three Israeli settler youth, followed by the murder of Abu Khdeir and the beating of his cousin, as well as shelling from Gaza and Israeli responses to it have everyone on edge, it is possible that the Israeli political system will be able to resist calls for leniency for “three of our own”. The sooner Shin Bet and the appropriate Israeli and Palestinian police department are able to identify suspects, make arrests, and a transparent criminal justice process takes place in the murder of the three young settlers***, the more likely that the status quo, no matter how sub-optimal, can be restored.
If you really want to have an excellent understanding of what is really going on between the Israelis and the Palestinians, I cannot recommend strongly enough The Gatekeepers. It is an Israeli documentary that interviewed, at the time, the immediate six previous heads of Shin Bet. I will leave you with one more quote from it, also from Carmi Gillon, in regard to the extremist religious leadership and their response in the wake of Yigal Amir’s assassination of Yitzhak Rabin as this also gets to John’s question. Gillon was the Shin Bet director at the time of Rabin’s assassination and resigned his position as a result of what he perceived as his professional failure. In describing the outcome of that event he says: “On the contrary it is only getting worse. I believe we’ll see another political assassination over the withdrawal from the West Bank. It will come from many directions, mainly from the rabbis, because the rabbis have no reason to learn any lesson. As far as the extremist rabbis are concerned the system proved itself.”
* Adam L. Silverman is the Cultural Advisor at the US Army War College. The views expressed here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Army War College and/or the US Army.
** This quote is from the Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers. Specifically it is at 55:20 to 55:45 in the movie.
*** Hebron, and the area around it where the three Israeli settler youth were found murdered sort of straddle Areas B and C of the West Bank. The areas were set up to denote who has control in the post-Oslo Accords transition phases. Area A is full Palestinian control. In it policing, Rule of Law, and criminal justice are administered under the laws and regulations of the Palestinian Authority. Area B is joint Israeli-Palestinian control and Area C is full Israeli control. It is unclear from the reporting exactly where the murder was committed or the bodies were specifically dumped, other than “fifteen miles from where they were abducted”. Given that the area around Hebron straddles Areas B and C the Israelis will either share jurisdiction or have complete jurisdiction over the investigation.