09 January '17..
This never-ending killing spree that we tend to see wrongly as "lone-wolf" terrorism has still not been internalized. Our civilian and military preparations largely still do not take into account the fact that these attackers have targets: The terrorists have a clear preference for soldiers and uniformed personnel, symbolizing the State of Israel's power; settlers, symbolizing the so-called occupation; and civilians clearly identified as Jewish, so as to aggravate public tensions.
Sunday's ramming attack killed an officer and three cadets. Accurate images of the incident were published widely, are heart-wrenching to watch, and evoking feelings of rage and frustration over the loss of lives with every additional viewing. This is the enemy we face.
But I am afraid we still have not learned to prepare properly to combat the methods they have adopted to kill us and break our spirits. These attackers choose terrorism as their modus operandi and try to surprise us every time, and we are indeed surprised.
Soldiers and uniformed personnel -- wherever they may be, let alone when they are collected together in a group or close to an area of conflict -- must act as if they are in a military encampment. If it is impossible to shield the areas where soldiers converge, they must guard the spot and post a lookout. This way they are prepared for danger and, most importantly, will be able to respond and prevent an attack, or at the very least minimize the damage. The ramming attacker in Jerusalem found a weak spot on Sunday, and today we mourn in pain. The soldiers may not be our actual children, but they become our children the moment they leave the gates of the Bakum, the army's main induction center at Tel Hashomer, and protect us.
The images of soldiers fleeing the scene of the attack, recorded on camera and broadcast again and again, do not look good. Those who ran did not do so because they feared having to face a military court after shooting the terrorist, but they did so as an instinctive response to the surprise and helplessness they felt.
Truth be told, I would not have wanted everyone to have opened fire at the scene, as this sort of response may well have created even more victims. It is natural for fear to take over when such a threat materializes. The screams of the victims intensify the chaos, and no one takes command, but it is at that point that an army is judged on how well it has readied itself to respond, initiate and strive for contact.
I find solace in the guide and the soldiers and officers who understood the incident was not an accident. They understood it was a terrorist attack, identified the attacker, and opened fire. Their character is worth emulating.
Moreover, I do not believe there is a connection between the fact that some of the soldiers ran from the scene and the verdict in the Azaria trial, and I would discourage any of us from believing there is. With that, the longer we do not see the correct explanation for their conduct, which will allow soldiers to confront an enemy and respond to threats, I am afraid that as time passes the "Azaria effect" will take over, and we will begin seeing soldiers who hide instead of attacking. The enemy in front of us will not be discouraged by our policy of destroying the homes of Palestinian "martyrs," but rather by the understanding that in the State of Israel we trust the judgment of those who bear arms to preserve the purity of arms but at the same time not to hesitate to confront an enemy and use their weapons when the threat is in front of their eyes.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvika Fogel is a former chief of staff of the IDF Southern Command.
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