JERUSALEM — Meet Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan. He’s a star in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party. He has only been on the job for six months, but for the last four he has been dealing with a wave of almost daily attacks — stabbings, shootings, car rammings — by Palestinians against Israelis.
Erdan appears regularly on Israeli TV and radio talk shows to discuss Israel’s responses to what he calls “Palestinian terror.”
Since the beginning of October, 25 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, alongside an American and three others; and about 150 Palestinians have been fatally shot by security forces — roughly 100 during attacks or attempted attacks and 50 during clashes.
Erdan endorses an aggressive, proactive approach — or what Palestinians decry as a brutal crackdown.
In his first interview with the foreign media, Erdan lists his four top tactics for dealing with the violence.
1. Demolish their homes
Israel has returned to the controversial practice of demolishing the family homes of Palestinians involved in attacks. Home demolitions were a common during the second intifada between 2000 and 2005, but were abandoned 10 years ago after the military said they were not an effective deterrent. Palestinian and human rights activists call the practice a barbaric form of “collective punishment” against innocent family members, including children. Others argue the demolitions just cause more anger.
Erdan: “Home demolitions are not something that we want to do, but when you are trying to save innocent lives and stop the terror, you have no choice. We all believe in human rights, but in every democracy you have to balance between those freedoms and the biggest freedom, which is staying alive.”
“Today there is no debate about whether this deterrent is effective. We already saw an example of the Palestinian father who turned in his son after he killed Rabbi Ya'akov Litman, 40, and his son Netanel, 18, because he did not want to lose his house."
“To say that this incites them more I really can’t accept. Whatever you do against terror will incite others. If you kill the terrorist, it will incite his friends and family. You need to find steps that will deter a person who is thinking about carrying out the next attack.”
2. Revoke their citizenship and deport them
Some Israeli politicians want to deport assailants, and even the families of Palestinian attackers, to the Gaza Strip, which is under partial Israeli military blockade for trade and travel. Erdan is open to the idea.
Erdan: “Revoking citizenship or residency is a very long process, even if someone is involved in terror against his own country, but I think the West should work together to shape or change the rules of war, which need to be adapted to the new terrorism that is sweeping the world.”
“We have Israeli Arabs who are joining ISIS, they fly to Turkey, cross the border into Syria and fight with ISIS. Then they get injured and return to Israel for medical treatment. There is nothing I can do about it. I can send them to jail, but we still have to pay for them.”
3. Fine the parents
Erdan: “More than half of the attacks that involve stone throwing or Molotov cocktails were carried out by minors under the age of 18. Nothing can be done legally with those who are under the age of 14 [meaning they cannot be put in Israeli jails, though older minors are incarcerated], so you have to deter their parents — and that is why we are promoting legislation to fine parents.”
4. More checkpoints
The latest wave of violence began in Jerusalem. The police and military set up checkpoints at the exits to Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, effectively dividing the city between Arabs and Jews. Palestinians, even Arab Israeli citizens, leaving those areas for Jewish neighborhoods were stopped and checked.
Erdan: “We saw that these checkpoints really work. We tried many steps to stop this terrorism and we had no other choice but to put them up and check each and every person to see what they carry with them, to see if they had knives that might be used to stab someone.”
“We also approached the local leadership in East Jerusalem and encouraged them to be active against the terror attacks. The older generation understood that they had a lot to lose, the checkpoints stopped them from going to work, or it took them a long time."