Two weeks of Palestinian rioting in Jerusalem and the West Bank has died down now. It started July 14 with a terror attack–Israeli Arabs smuggled weapons into the holy site and killed two Israeli police, prompting Israel to erect metal detectors at the site. That set off the riots. I talked about the meaning of all this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.
The immediate lesson is that in this part of the world, anything can cause a deadly flareup at any time. The larger lessons come from a common Israeli expression–it’s better to be smart than right.
Israel is in charge of security at the Temple Mount. That’s the semi-holy “status quo” that everyone is invoking. So Israel has every right to post metal detectors at the site.
But let’s be smart. First of all, you don’t take s step that you’re not prepared to follow through. Otherwise you set yourself up for a black eye. Further–metal detectors to check each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of worshipers at the site–Muslim worshipers is the wrong step, even though there are already metal detectors at the entrance to the Western Wall, where Jews pray, and the Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount, where non-Muslims enter, but that’s beside the point.
The point is that cracking down on everyone is, how shall we say, the American mentality. I just spent two weeks in the US, flying around a bit, taking off my belt and my shoes and enduring X-rays and body searches at airport after airport. Folks, I’m about to turn 70, I look about as threatening as Don Knotts, and I’ve got an American passport, so why? I’ve written about how Israel does this, in contrast.
The smart measure, which Israel in fact employed once, would be to close the Jerusalem site briefly and search for weapons. Then do it again a week later. Then three days later. Then two weeks later. Then one day later. It’s a more efficient measure, less obtrusive, and gets the desired results.
When did Israel get old and stodgy in its security measures? It didn’t. Its leadership, prone to panic and overreaction, did. And there’s the problem. Right but not smart.
And that sets us up for another round of violence the next time the Palestinians see an excuse–assuming as they do that they can get the tough-talking but weak Israeli leadership to back down again.