Palestinian Deportations May Not Be Worth It For Israel

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel's controversial proposal to deport the families of terrorists and demolish their homes may not be worth the international criticism that it will bring, a counter-terrorism expert here said.

It would be far more effective if moderate Muslims could be persuaded to impress on more radical Muslims that their actions are not pleasing to God, said Boaz Ganor, director of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, near Tel Aviv.

Israel demolished the houses and arrested the male relatives of two Palestinian terrorists, whom Israel blamed for two terror attacks last week.

The move brought a swift and harsh criticism, both at home and abroad. The U.S. called on Israel not to punish innocent people.

"We expect that Israel's actions in its campaign against terror will be based on information that's related to an individual's culpability, not to personal or family relationships," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

"We think that taking punitive actions against innocent people will not solve Israel's security problems, and we'll be raising that issue with the Israeli government," Boucher said.

Israel's Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said on Friday that Israel could not engage in blanket expulsions, but he said expelling individuals directly linked to terror could be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Daniel Taub, Deputy Legal Advisor of the Foreign Ministry, said deportation is a "measure under consideration" by Israel at the moment but no decision has yet been taken.

In any case, Taub said, Israel is not talking about any kind of mass deportations. In addition, Palestinians would only be moved from one part of the PA, i.e. the West Bank, to another part of the PA, i.e. the Gaza Strip and not removed to another country, he said.

"It is not against innocent bystanders," Taub said in a telephone interview. According to Taub, such measures would only be considered in cases where family members knew about an attack before it occurred or expressed identification with the attack afterwards.

He mentioned the case of a mother who appeared with her son in his pre-attack farewell video, giving him her blessing for what he was about to do. In some cases, parents say afterwards that they wish all their other children would do the same.

"It is still undergoing legal and practical investigation," Taub said. But counter-terrorism expert Ganor said even if expelling terrorists' families to the Gaza Strip proves legal, it might not really be worthwhile for Israel to engage in such measures.

"Basically to counter the phenomenon of suicide attacks [requires] offensive measures, defensive measures and punitive measures," said Ganor, who is director of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism near Tel Aviv.

"The focus on demolishing houses and deportations is an attempt to use deterrent measures to stop the phenomenon or bring it down," said Ganor in a telephone interview.

According to Ganor, a person or people can only be deterred if they think the costs exceed the benefits. From their point of view, Palestinian terrorists have made a very rational decision.

The benefits are high: The family receives money and prestige; and there are national benefits and religious benefits, he said.

"[Israel is trying] to narrow down the benefits, to make the costs more concrete," Ganor said. "If it will be effective at the end of the day? I doubt it."

In the past, he said, when Israel demolished houses, the Palestinians built new ones that were bigger and better. The deportation of family members might be effective, but it is more likely that terrorist organizations will find a way to compensate the families with more money and luxuries, he added.

For Israel one of the biggest costs would be international criticism, Ganor said. He believes the best way to deter suicide bombers is to convince them they going against God's will, and that they will go to hell, not heaven, for their actions.

According to Ganor, the burden changing their minds rests on the shoulders of "moderate Islam." The West must impress on moderate Muslims the need for them "to be very concrete and vocal against terror attacks and particularly suicide bombings," he said.

E-mail a news tip to Julie Stahl.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.