Opinion: Healing the enemy is bad policy

There was a time when Israel would jail terrorists for life and expel them, but today Israel heals them.

By Judith Bergman, MIDA

Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah leader and veteran of the PLO, was recently admitted for medical treatment to Ichilov hospital, the largest acute care facility in Israel.

Born in 1953, Rajoub joined Fatah – the largest faction of the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) — at an early age and was sentenced by Israel to life imprisonment in 1970 for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army truck near Hebron and for being a member of an armed group.

Freed in 1985 along with 1,150 other Arab prisoners, including terrorists, in exchange for three Israeli soldiers who had been taken hostage, he was rearrested and released several times in the following years for terrorist activities, such as building terror cells.

In 1988, he was deported to Lebanon for his part in the first intifada. He moved to Tunis, where Yasser Arafat was based between 1983 and 1993.

In 1994, after the signing of the Oslo Accords, Rajoub was allowed back into Israel, to the newly established Palestinian Authority (PA), where he was head of the PA’s so-called Preventive Security Forces from 1994 to 2002. Rajoub’s name frequently comes up as one of the contenders to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The trajectory of Rajoub, especially in his confrontations and interactions with Israel, culminating in his recent admission to an Israeli hospital for medical treatment, is symbolic of the relationship between Israel and the representatives of the PLO, the terrorist organization that has worked tirelessly to destroy Israel for more than half a century. Once Israel would jail terrorists for life and expel them, today Israel heals them.

Rajoub, obviously, is not the first senior PLO leader to receive treatment in an Israeli hospital. In 2017, for example, secretary general of the PLO, Saeb Erekat, who suffered from a serious lung disease at the time, received medical treatment in Israel. Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who has never sought to conceal Hamas’s explicit goal of eradicating Israel, has had an astounding number of family members admitted to Israeli hospitals, including his daughter, his nephew (the treatment was granted at the same time as Haniyeh was praising a shooting attack in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis), his granddaughter and his mother-in-law.

Other senior Hamas figures have also had their families treated in Israeli hospitals, among them Hamas senior official Moussa Abu Marzou, whose sister was treated for cancer.

This policy is a result of the fact that Israel admits tens of thousands of Arabs from the PA and Gaza for medical treatment every year. In 2018, Israel reportedly granted 20,000 permits to Arabs living in the PA to enter Israel and receive treatment, 3000 more than in 2017. The Israeli health coordinator also trains Arab doctors from the PA in Israel, helping to improve their capacity to treat patients in the PA.

Notably, as part of Abbas’ recent attempts to create a humanitarian crisis in the PA, the PA no longer permit its citizens to travel for medical treatment in Israel for which the PA pays approximately $100 million per year. As evidenced by Jibril Rajoub, however, Abbas has not extended that policy to include the leaders of the PA, who continue to enjoy the benefits of Israeli health care.

It is one thing that Israel has a humanitarian policy of helping to treat Arabs from the PA and Gaza. However, it is highly questionable whether that policy should be so liberally extended, as it is today, to self-declared enemy leaders and their extended families.

Not only is such a policy unprecedented in history – for a nation to save the lives of an enemy leadership whose goals of total eradication have not changed over the past half century – but it is foolish and self-defeating. It is especially foolish and self-defeating in the Middle East, a region where the only currency that counts is power, not humanitarianism, and where said humanitarianism is viewed as weakness and decadence, not as something to be admired.

If Israel ever wants to begin to even dream of anything approximating peace in the region, it will have to abandon policies that aid its enemies, such as literally saving their lives. Instead, it will have to show that it is willing to defeat entities that work relentlessly for Israel’s destruction – in whatever way necessary. Once such a defeat of the enemy has been achieved, and victory imposed, the region will only begin to hope to be able to build something that resembles peace.