At a meeting with the press in his chambers at the Quirya compound in Tel-Aviv yesterday (Wednesday), Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman presented the "Sticks, Blows & Carrots" plan he had consolidated for dealing with the issue of Palestinian terrorism in the Judea & Samaria District. In the background, he spoke against Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who objects to the principle of not returning the bodies of killed Palestinian terrorists to their families.
Lieberman mentioned what he regards as the "absurd and grotesque" situation where the Ministry of Public Security returns the bodies of killed terrorists from Eastern Jerusalem, while the Ministry of Defense, in line with the Minister's policy, refuses to return the bodies of killed terrorists from the Judea & Samaria District: "Mandelblit is not the highest (judicial) authority, he is still the Attorney General and not the Supreme Court. It is funny that two government ministries have different policies, so I will raise the issue again at the next cabinet meeting. If Mandelblit does not defend my position at the High Court of Justice, I will do it myself, and if the High Court of Justice rules differently, contrary to my position, I will respect their ruling, as I did in the past," said Minister Lieberman. Regarding the position of ISA the Minister said: "It is OK to disagree with ISA, too."
Lieberman presented his plan which in fact constitutes an extension of the policy implemented by IDF in the Judea & Samaria District in the last year, with the exception of a number of revisions and enhancements at both ends of the plan. According to the Minister of Defense, 15 Palestinian villages and towns from which no terrorists have hailed were charted in green and will benefit from a series of immediate alleviations. For example, master plans for villages in Samaria and for the town of Qalqilya will be expanded, an economic corridor will be established between Jericho and Jordan, a western industrial zone will be built for the city of Nablus and a hospital will be built in the town of Beit Sahour, along with kindergartens and football pitches elsewhere in Samaria.
All of the projects for the benefit of the Palestinians in the villages and areas marked favorably will be established in "C" zones – zones under full Israeli control. Additionally, Lieberman intends to upgrade the infrastructures of the primary checkpoints in the Judea & Samaria District, including Qalandia and Hizma around Jerusalem, in order to alleviate the daily traffic of Palestinian and Jews passing through those checkpoints. A similar plan on the scope of 300 million ILS was endorsed by former Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon toward the end of his tenure.
Lieberman also intends to initiate two relatively innovative moves, while bypassing the Mukataa (Palestinian Authority HQ). The first move is intended to establish a direct and continuous dialog with dozens of influential Palestinian individuals who have thus far been forced to speak with Israel only subject to the authorization of and coordination with the Palestinian Authority. According to Lieberman, the talks will be public or discrete, and the parties in question include top-ranking Palestinian academic and economic figures.
The second move Lieberman plans is to establish a news website in Arabic aimed at the Palestinian population in the Judea & Samaria District and the Gaza Strip, at the cost of about ten million ILS, to be launched next January. "A state of asymmetry has emerged in the Judea & Samaria District, where Abu Mazen speaks freely with Israeli parties but the opposite process cannot take place," Lieberman explained. "Abu Mazen is an obstacle to any future arrangement. This move has nothing to do with the succession struggles and we are not interested in intervening in these matters. The goal I have set for the website we will establish: 400,000 log-ins to the website, identified by user name, per day."
In addition to the aforementioned moves, Lieberman also presented the 15 "red" villages and areas from which numerous terrorists hailed over the last year. They will suffer from a security crack-down, according to him. The measures expected to be taken are not essentially different from the measures taken so far, and include, among other things, demolition and sealing of terrorists' homes, intensified IDF operations in "A" zones, confiscation of terrorism funds, reclaiming of stolen vehicles, more extensive arrests, revocation of the work permits of members of terrorists' families, revocation of VIP permits of senior Palestinian officials who take part in incitement, intensified operations against incitement-related elements such as printing houses, Facebook pages and radio stations, intensified inspections of Palestinian vehicles along the various routes and extensive demolition of illegal Palestinian construction projects.
"We were destined to live one next to the other," said Lieberman, who resides in the settlement Nokdim in Gush-Etzion, "These measures do not include the deportation of terrorists' families as this measure is not legally practicable. The plan is financed by a budget of 400 million ILS for the next two years and its objective is to provide security to the Jewish and Palestinian inhabitants: no one wants a Molotov cocktail thrown at him in the middle of the night and no one wants people entering his home in the middle of the night for searches and arrests."
Lieberman provided statistics that reflect the security effort in the Judea & Samaria District since the beginning of the year, which led to relative quiet in the last few months: 1732 Palestinians detained, 201 terrorist attacks prevented, 22 mechanical workshops producing improvised firearms demolished. Lieberman added that the plan will have no effect on the Palestinian security organizations and the coordinated cooperation with them will continue. The Minister of Defense also added that there was no intention on his part to build another Palestinian town in addition to Rawabi, the town built near Ramallah. With regard to the possibility of having the Casino in Jericho reestablished, the Minister of Defense said: "I am against the establishment of a casino in Eilat, too."
Lieberman was asked about the inconsistencies in his approach to the Azaria affair: as a Member of Knesset on behalf of an opposition party he reported, in the early days of the affair, to the military courthouse to demonstrate his support for the soldier and stated in his Facebook page that the soldier should not be charged for manslaughter, but the day before yesterday he called on the military judges to "Ignore the background noises and interpretations and rule according to justice."
Lieberman said: "Judges should not rule according to a predetermined position and ignore whatever is being said around them. I do not know whether Azaria acted correctly or not, but I cannot accept a situation where it was determined in advance that he had acted contrary to the moral norms and that he had sinned. An operational debriefing cannot be used as evidence in a court of law. A human being can err, and a soldier who had served a full year under the distressing conditions in the Judea & Samaria District can err. But even if he erred, he was acting on behalf of the State and the People."