Israel's Latest Terror Threat?

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Monday night's terror attack near Jerusalem's Old City, which injured 17 Israelis, mostly soldiers, portends a new challenge for security officials.

Kassem Mughrabi, 19, was the third Israeli Arab in as many months to use a vehicle to run down Jewish pedestrians in the nation's capital.

In July, two Arabs from east Jerusalem neighborhoods, holding blue Israeli identity cards, went on killing sprees with bulldozers in the city center, murdering three civilians in one attack and injuring scores of others.

On Wednesday, the Shin Bet (General Security Agency) lifted a media gag order on a seven-member terror cell operating out of east Jerusalem, charged with murder, attempted murder, illegal possession of firearms and weapons trafficking.

Since the beginning of the year, nearly 250 Arabs from east Jerusalem neighborhoods have been arrested for terror-related activities, a significant rise from 37 in 2007 and nine in 2005. 

According to Shin Bet officials, in addition to the suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and stabbings, which have characterized past attacks, east Jerusalem terror cells are planning assassinations of prominent Israelis in hotels and other venues. One cell even hatched a plan to shoot down a helicopter carrying an Israeli official.

Shin Bet is the first to admit that dealing with potential terror threats from Israeli Arabs -- who circulate freely in and out of Israeli cities -- presents a formidable security challenge.

Arabs residing in east Jerusalem neighborhoods carry Israeli identity cards, allowing them full access anywhere in Israel. The reverse is not the case. Israelis are forbidden to visit areas under Palestinian Authority control because of real security concerns.

Israel's security forces, meanwhile, face a whole different challenge than dealing with Arabs living in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip, who are not free to enter Israel without the proper documentation -- hence, the checkpoints.

Curbing attacks from Arabs living in Israeli cities requires a whole different approach, which has to include serious consequences.

One such consequence is razing the family home of anyone carrying out a terror attack.

During the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising) from 2000 to 2004, it was one of the deterrents the government used. But there's a lot of red tape involved and some believe it has the opposite effect -- fostering more hatred and creating a victim mentality.

Other measures that have been considered are revoking residency rights of the terrorist's family and requiring them to relocate to PA-controlled cities or to the Gaza Strip.

Former IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. General Moshe Ya'alon and other like-minded Israelis believe real, long-lasting change must come from the ground up, i.e., in the curriculum in Arab schools, in its media and the culture itself, which often propagates hatred rather than co-existence.

It's a problem that will require creative new solutions by the next Israeli government -- one that the people of Israel would like an opportunity to elect.

Sources: Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, YNet news

*Originally published September 24, 2008.

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Tzippe Barrow

Tzippe Barrow

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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