Sunday, December 10, 2023 -
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Should Israel dismantle checkpoints to make life easier for the Palestinians?

Checkpoints criss-cross the West Bank and the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. They make it difficult for Palestinians to travel to work, to friends or relatives, to shop, or for any other purpose. They are an inconvenience at best, a severe depressor of Palestinian freedom and the Palestinian economy at worst — depending on how long it takes to get through.

Palestinians see checkpoints as still worse: as humiliations. It might take, say, 30 minutes to get from one’s home to one’s work as the crow flies, but in practice the trip might take hours on account of Israeli checkpoints.

Why are there checkpoints? Should they be dismantled to make life easier for Palestinians?

Checkpoints are a function of terrorism, nothing else. If there were no terrorists, there would be no checkpoints. True, the number of terrorists who try to breach a checkpoint are relatively small. Most Palestinians are not terrorists. However, as we all know, it takes only a single terrorist to kill many innocent people, and while one might not set up an entire system of checkpoints due to a single act of terrorists, we all also know that there is no such thing as a “single act of Palestinian terrorism.”

A gruesome reminder of this occurred this week when Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian at a checkpoint. Killed? That’s a very serious response. Look at the accusations, the investigations, the hot tempers, the terrible consequences of a killing by a policeman in Denver. If Denver police sometimes err, or even engage in police brutality, it would seem that the same level of investigation should follow every killing of a Palestinian at a checkpoint — and it might seem that the same frequency of police brutality or error occurs at these checkpoints.

Alas, Palestinian society is not American society, and the frequency of attempted terrorist attacks, and of the necessary Israelis responses, far outstrips anything ever seen in Denver, not only on a per capita basis, but even in absolute numbers.

Take the incident this week at the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus, on the West Bank. Israeli troops stationed there shot a man after he behaved suspiciously. The man refused soldiers’ order to lift his shirt — a standard precaution for spotting terrorists with bomb vests. And, no doubt, a humiliating procedure for the many Palestinians who do not wear bomb vests. However, in this case, the Palestinian, after refusing to lift his shirt, made a sudden move toward his midriff. Alert Israeli soldiers shot him dead.

See for yourself what was wrapped around the Palestinian’s body. The picture is printed with this editorial. It shows three pipe bombs which, as we say, were found on the dead man’s body. Clearly, Israeli soldiers needed to shoot to kill because the would be terrorist, if only wounded, could still have detonated his bombs. This, too, is a proven terrorist technique.

Yes, it would be nice if Israel could dismantle its checkpoints — and not only for the Palestinians. Do you think a single Israeli soldier wants to man a checkpoint? For Israelis, too, it is humiliating to have to ask people to lift their shirts, and a monumental waste of time and money to spend all day long delaying people on their way to work or anywhere else — not to mention, it is potentially deadly work. Israeli soldiers would far prefer to be in university or yeshiva building their knowledge and careers.

But this is life in the “neighborhood.” Terrorists. Would be terrorists. “Body vests.” Bloodshed. On this beautiful and largely desolate land of the West Bank, on which there is plenty of room for all of the Palestinians there, and all of the Israelis there, and millions of more people besides, a significant number of Palestinians seek to kill. Israelis seek to stop them. That’s why there are checkpoints. No other reason. And that’s why Israel should not dismantle them, even though it would make life easier for Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority is the first to concede that it does not have the moral suasion, the political will or the police capacity to stop Palestinian terrorists. Under these circumstances, it would be suicidal for Israel to meet the Palestinian Authority’s request for the mass removal of West Bank checkpoints.

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