Yesterday a routine IDF activity in the Jenin Refugee Camp hit trouble. Just before dawn, a combination of undercover and regular soldiers entered Jenin to arrest terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks emanating from that area. Terrorism has escalated significantly in recent months and the Jenin Refugee Camp is a hotbed of violence against Israel.
As the soldiers were departing the area, they were ambushed. Roadside bombs were detonated against the armored vehicles and Palestinian terrorists opened fire. Reinforcements were called in and attack helicopters provided cover but for eight hours, the soldiers battled terrorists until they could retreat. Seven soldiers were injured, thank God none of them seriously.
The incident brought the seriousness of the situation, in Jenin and in Samaria in general, to the forefront of public debate in Israel. While terrorism has been on the rise in Samaria for some months now, what we witnessed in Jenin yesterday was a whole new level of weaponry and competence amongst the Jenin terrorists. Snipers with high-end weapons, terrorists who held their own for hours, roadside bombs reminiscent of Hezbollah methods in Southern Lebanon – all point to a growing crisis in Samaria. To top it off, it has become abundantly clear that the Palestinian Authority is no longer present in the Jenin Refugee Camp. They have abandoned the scene because they have utterly failed to assert their authority there.
It is a well-known fact of nature that vacuums are quickly filled. When the Palestinian Authority left the Jenin Refugee Camp, Islamic Jihad entered. The terrorist network and infrastructure in Jenin is controlled primarily by Islamic Jihad, a small but radical organization funded by Iran. A sister organization of Hezbollah in Lebanon, it receives most of its funding and instructions through Islamic Jihad in Gaza, a direct Iranian proxy. Yes, Iran is in Samaria.
While the Israeli Government and the IDF are debating how to respond to this new development, the US is secretly conducting negotiations with Iran in an attempt to reach an understanding, if not a formal agreement, with regard to Iranian nuclear development. Israel is not a party to the discussion in any way. According to news reports, the understanding will prevent Iran from moving closer to the creation of a nuclear weapon, and in exchange, Iran will receive some $20 billion in released assets. Of course, it is difficult to believe that Iran will adhere to whatever commitments it makes, but what is crystal clear is that the released $20 billion will be quickly funneled into terrorism against Israel. If we are currently witnessing improved weaponry and capability among a small group of terrorists in Jenin, we will see an explosion of similar capabilities in Gaza and all over Judea and Samaria. Israel will be directly threatened by Iran.
I don’t doubt that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran is a direct threat to the existence of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. But that does not mean we can afford to ignore the direct effect that Iran has on our lives here in Israel, particularly in Judea and Samaria. Conventional weapons, not just nuclear weapons, kill.
But here’s the good news. The Israeli Government announced just this week that it would be building thousands of new homes in Judea and Samaria. The communities of Neve Zuf, Adorah, and Telem will more than double in size once this new building is completed. It has also been announced that the bureaucratic process for building in Judea and Samaria will be shortened and simplified and that Betzalel Smotrich, Minister of Finance and a Minister in the Department of Defense, will be solely responsible for permits and the associated processes. This is outstanding news as Smotrich, himself a resident of Kedumim in Samaria, is a key proponent of expansion in Judea and Samaria.
In response to this news, however, there were denunciations from Europe, the US, and the UN. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced the plans and declared: “The expansion of these illegal settlements is a significant driver of tensions and violence.” In other words, according to Guterres, there is justification for the horrific attacks in Jenin because Israel is building new homes in Judea and Samaria.
Quite the contrary. Building in Judea and Samaria is the single most effective way to convince the Palestinians that the Jews are here to stay. That they can choose to live with us in peace or continue to battle and suffer the consequences of war instead. Either way, they will never drive us out of the Land. Statements like those of Guterres get in the way of a very positive process that is happening within Palestinian society: the steady realization that Israel will never leave Judea and Samaria.
As an ordinary resident of Samaria, I may not be able to take on Iran. I am happy to leave that to the Israeli Government. But I can take on my Palestinian neighbors. I will not fight them. I want to live with them in peace. But I do know that the best way to achieve peace is to grow and thrive, here in the Biblical Heartland. To reinforce the growing Palestinian awareness that we are, indeed, here to stay. I raised five children in Samaria and today, three of my children are raising nine of my grandchildren in Judea and Samaria. This is our victory. This will be our path to peace.
Sondra Oster Baras is the founder and director of CFOIC Heartland, an organization that connects Christians all over the world to the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Israel’s Biblical Heartland. To learn more about her work and to support the people of Judea and Samaria, visit www.cfoic.com .