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The Palestinians Believe They Have Israel in the Corner

raging-bull

The boxing match continues and Israel is about to get bloodied.

As I’ve written in the past few weeks, the Palestinians believe the timing is propitious for them to pursue their endgame. I believe they think their endgame – the knock-out punch that will bring about the final part of this century-old conflict and finally give them control over the Jews and the former Ottoman Palestine – is what happens when a single state, run by an Arab majority, exists from the Sea to the River (I would argue they believe they would next lay claim to Jordan, but that’s fodder for another discussion).

To achieve this goal, the Palestinians must keep Israel off-balance while continuing to jab and throw the occasional left hook or two. Their jabs and punches take many forms: terrorism (not just blowing up buses, restaurants and hotels, but also rockets launched at civilians), diplomatic warfare, propaganda that vilifies Jews and Israel, strong media relations that consistently depict Israel’s actions as that of an evil ogre (especially if they are security based), international and domestic law-fare and pressure upon Israel’s allies which is supported and strengthened by the Arab and Muslim entourage blocs who sit in the Palestinian’s corner profiting from the Palestinian’s black eyes and bloody nose while watching from the sidelines.

This fighter, the Palestinian nation, has shown moments of brutal aggression in previous rounds, showing that it indeed belongs in the ring and doesn’t need proxies fighting its wars, but in the latest, current round, is taking a more sophisticated approach to the fight.

This fighting strategy has evolved in the past few years partly as a response to prize-fighter Israel’s success in winning the Palestinian War of 2000. For years, the Palestinians succeeded in penetrating Israel and committing atrocities against Israeli civilians, inflicting severe emotional and physical blows against their opponent. However, their opponent is a middleweight and they’re lightweights. Israel wore them down with efficacious punches that became harder and harder to counter. It evacuated Gaza, leaving that strip of land without a connection to the West Bank, forcing the Palestinians to fight with two uncoordinated arms. It parried punches with stronger punches, stopping most of the terror attacks through intensive intelligence gathering, using targeted killings, developing defensive strategies such as the security barrier and large increases in the number of check-points, and decreases in the number of Palestinians permitted to travel into Israel to work. While doing these things, Israel also kept pushing the Palestinians into a smaller and tighter corner. With Gaza gone, additional territory in the rink was being overwhelmed by Israel as it grew settlements in Judea and Samaria/West Bank and built out parts of Jerusalem. To fortify their claims, the over-confident Israelis kept pointing to their increasing activities such as archaeological digs to point out that the ring should be theirs because of the historic connection of early Jews to Jerusalem and Israel.

But the Israelis don’t know how to close a fight, and when they had the Palestinians down for the count, they stepped back and offered peace. They did this in 2000, 2001 and 2008. Every time, the Palestinians refused to accept a truce and stepped right back into the fight, even more fiercely than before. Even after the pain of fighting a losing war in the Palestinian War of 2000, faced with extensive body blows and reeling from the loss of their charismatic promoter, Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians did not bow down or give up – after all, this fight is in an inescapable iron cage and since the UN ref won’t let either side kill off the other, the fight must go on, blow after bloody blow.

It took a few years, but the solution came in the form of a new trainer, Salam Fayyad, a western-trained economist who worked in the highest echelons of international finance. Fayyad understands that the crowd which matters here is the West and they can influence the ref to give advantages to the Palestinians. Fayyad and his boss, Mahmoud Abbas who had once written a doctoral dissertation denying parts of the Holocaust, understood well that fighting a bigger, stronger fighter with brutality would only lead to greater injury and a possible loss. No, that was not the way to win an uneven fight. The only way to beat a stronger opponent is to make him work harder, make him work non-stop, tire him out, weaken him with painful and confusing jabs to the side and wait until he is too fatigued to resist. Time will do the rest.

So the Palestinians went into the rope-a-dope.

Instead of terrorism, the Palestinians began to demonstrate using civilians at B’ilin; instead of loud proclamations in the Arab media, they wooed European and North American activists to proclaim for them that Israel was an unjust state; instead of fighting fire with fire, they fought fire with fake media demonstrations like Muhammad al-Dura and the bomb that killed the family on the beach in Gaza; instead of calling Israel names, they let their shills from the Left (especially sympathetic Jews and university activism) vilify Israel in the most heinous terms (genocide; apartheid), and of course they counted on the confusion their elusive rope-a-dope strategy was sowing upon their opponent.

Their lumbering opponent, unable to see that the underdog’s strategy had changed and was now making use of their smaller size and sympathetic crowd to form a dangerous advantage, kept acting with unsophisticated brutishness. it kept pushing the settlements, watched its economy grow and its society become more entrenched even in areas that it knew it may not be able to keep, it announced a law that made it look bigoted because it prevented Palestinian Arabs from moving into Israel and bulldozed buildings under judgmental reporters’ watchful eyes. Whenever stung by jabs, Israel fought back with a barrage of heavy blows against Lebanon and Gaza, proving that a media victory can overwhelm a military victory.

Winning few points against the elusive smaller fighter who kept bouncing against the ropes, the lumbering middleweight began to feel tired and to question his own motives and tactics. And that’s the moment in which we find ourselves now: the moment when the smaller fighter against the ropes senses the weakness and fatigue of the larger fighter and comes out of the ropes quickly and aggressively to fight in the hope that time has done its share and given the advantage to the less tired and extremely motivated underdog.

Over the past few weeks, the Palestinians have come out of the ropes with threats that they won’t even discuss peace unless Israel treats not just the settlements as illegal by stopping all construction there but also give the same status to Jerusalem. The US, a fight enthusiast that had been trying to support both sides even as it kept sending messages of support to Israel’s corner, immediately supported this idea.

The Palestinians followed that jab with a second jab to the other side by announcing that their leader, Abbas, would resign, throwing the ref and the crowd into a tizzy since Abbas is believed to be a “moderate” and the only one on the Palestinian side with enough heft to deliver peace.

After these couple of jabs, the Palestinians followed with a strong right hook, allowing leaks to Ha’aretz and other reporters that Fayyad was planning to unilaterally announce a state on the 1967/1949 Armistice lines. The Israelis, tired and hurt, began to lobby the Americans, the Europeans and even the ref hard to stop this from happening. Feinting to the right, the Palestinians announced that Abbas was not in favor of Fayyad’s action. Somewhat relieved, the Israelis went to Washington to meet with the American President, who treated them as if they were from the enemy’s gym, not as their supporter and mentor. In fact, he apparently informed the Israelis that he was now supporting the Palestinian fighter unless the Israeli fighter backed off with his heavy-handedness.

Israel got the message. Bloodied, hurt and surprised by the new-found strength and crowd-support the other fighter was bringing to the fight, the Israelis lowered their defenses a little and announced a settlement freeze. Sensing weakness, the Palestinians lured in the Israelis with a light punch as Saeb Erakat announced that even the announcement to stop settlement building wouldn’t open the door the crowd demanded to talk peace. Duped, the Israelis felt they had gotten out of trouble and already began to make crowing noises about how they had put the ball in the Palestinians’ court and the Palestinians were the ones refusing to play. The Palestinians ignored this entirely. They had the Israelis right where they wanted them.

POW!! Uppercut!

That was today’s announcement that they will seek to have the ref change the rules by which the fight had been fought to their advantage. They are asking the UN to relinquish UNSCR 242 and 338 by replacing them with a new resolution that grants the Palestinians the West Bank/Judea and Samaria as well as the eastern part of Jerusalem before the next round begins. It’s official.

UNSCR 242 demands that before any peace deal is achieved and any land is given up – and specifying that not ALL the land is to be given up – peace and acceptance of all states in the region, including Israel, must be achieved. Suddenly these rules are to be changed and if they are, the price is not the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, it is Jerusalem itself. The holy part of Jerusalem.

Lo and behold, it appears the Palestinian wooing of the crowd in previous rounds as well as Israel’s perceived brutishness, mixed in with unfair singling out of this fighter because he wears a star of David on his shorts, have solidified the crowd’s support for the move and the ref will have no less than the EU supporting this move. He might even have the US’s support.

Do the Palestinians think this is the end? Heck, no. They think this is the beginning of the endgame; a final round of this fight that will last the next several years. Victory for them will be when Israel is no longer even fighting in the ring but is subjugated to their control. To accomplish this, whether they get the UN Security Council to accept the changes to 242 or not, just by having the General Assembly record these new rules and then kicking it into the Security Council, which has authority to create international law, they know that the pressure on Israel to succumb will be great, and they also know they will have the moral backing of the world as they continue to lash out at the weakened prize-fighter in front of them. After all, it will now be their land, as promised by the UN, that they will be “defending.”

Can Israel get out of this predicament? Yes. It will be tough, and I doubt that any of Israel’s current leaders in the government and the opposition have shown they have the acumen to do it, but some well aimed moves at their opponent can put Israel back in control of the fight. Sadly, if they don’t do these things soon, there is a very good chance we will see another war soon. A real war this time, where the Arabs bring the war into Israel itself.

25 Comments

  1. Ben-David

    12/1/2009 at 4:17 am

    Middle – please don’t project your own dependence on UN/White House/Western opinion – and your subsequent bewilderment/disillusion – on us Israelis.

    The current government is made up of people who called Oslo right from the beginning – and have expected the Palis to make moves like this when the salami-slicing of “good faith” territorial concessions stopped working.

    The fact that Bibi does not say these things outright just indicates that he is a careful politician. The UN can say whatever it wants – Liberman and Bibi have been carefully cultivating opinion in Eastern Europe and other areas that now feel vulnerable with a spineless US administration.

    Arab aggression would free Israel to act without the “restraint” that has prevented it from dealing decisive death blows (see Gaza for an example of pulling in the Israeli horse just he’s about to leap).

    The Israeli public has never been more united on the issue of defense – and Arab aggression such as missiles from the north would only tighten that unity.

    In contrast, the Palis are in internal disarray, and largely abandoned by many former supporters in the Arab world.

  2. themiddle

    12/1/2009 at 4:26 am

    Ben David, usually I take your pot-shots and just assume they’ll be part of the discussion. This time, I have to tell you that you are completely and entirely deluded. You have no idea what they are doing and even as you read it, you still don’t understand it. I’m projecting nothing. Read the news because it’s all as clear as day.

  3. Avigdor

    12/1/2009 at 10:01 am

    The settlement freeze was utter folly. We have to remember that Bibi’s first priority was getting American support for Iran. There are some options, however. First is to anounce that since the settlement freeze gesture was not well received by the Arabs, that it will be withdrawn unless they begin negotiating. There is no need for Israel to tear itself apart if the results are the same, isolation and more pressure. instead, it should be anounced that contiguous territory will be annexed to Israel. We need to stop playing these games with the peace process. We think we are being cute but only end up shooting ourselves in the foot. Obama has failed to extract a single concession from the Arabs, even on pathetic things like overfly rights! Bibi better have some firm guarantees on military action against Iran for all this dancing he has been forced to go through.
    Everything you wrote is on the mark.
    Ffd
    The Palis think they are in endgame. More importantly, they have the ear of the ref – the US. The settlement freeze was utter folly. We need to remember that Bibi’s first priority has been getting American support for Iran, and this forced him to show some concessions to the americans. There are options, however.
    The Pale

  4. Avigdor

    12/1/2009 at 10:14 am

    Sorry about that. On a mobile. Formatting errors. The key we need to understand is that the reason the Palestinians are gaining momentum is because they’ve developed a narrative for solving the conflict, even if it’s only on paper. If everyone has already accepted a Pali state, then why wait, says Europe? Good question.israeli politics is woefully unprepared for this. Despite pushing for 2 states all this time, israeli policy has been to delay and handicap a sovereign pali state as long as possible. The israeli left created abbas and fayyad and can’t see past it’s own rhetoric. The right is still crying that G-d gave us the Land, but has no policy for keeping the land. It is preposterous. Politics are fine, but at least deal with matters of life and death! The only reserve Israel has is popular American support. Everything is on hold until Iran is sorted out. After that, Bibi will force a showdown with Obama and count on the Congress to back him up.

  5. Tom Morrissey

    12/1/2009 at 11:44 am

    Middle, you don’t know a left hook from a rabbit punch. While the Palestinians have raised their game and long-term trends favor a state eventually, 2009 has been a very bad year. Obama’s apparent capitulation to Bibi has left Abbas et al. squirming, issuing various threats du jour that you may be alone in taking seriously.

    Obama really hung Abbas out to dry. Now, I’d be quite fearful of future administration policy– I suspect Obama wants to recover the adoring headlines and third world popularity he gained at Cairo. But for now, he’s been forced to back off his ‘daylight’ policy toward Israel. I’m sure Abbas, Fayyad et al. had much higher hopes for Obama’s first year.

    Sorry, there’s no confusing Israel with Jake LaMotta. You’re so fearful you’ve lost touch with even the most basic, most obvious reality: that the Palestinians make their wild threats, which frighten you so much, out of weakness.

  6. Avigdor

    12/1/2009 at 12:04 pm

    Tom, the only thing you’re missing is that the Palestinians are not accountable to anyone. They are not allowed to fail, so they have no incentive to be accountable for their actions. Both Abbas and Fayaad are serving past their legal terms. If things get too nasty, Abbas can always retire in Paris with his billions. Any solution that is imposed on them they can reject and declare an intifada. The entire world is tripping over itself to pamper them with money, weapons, diplomatic prestige… and for what? What have the Palestinians done to deserve any of this? Launch and lose another war to Israel? In this environment, what is the Palestinian incentive to negotiate for anything other than the most radical position?

    You are right. In reality, on the ground, the Palestinians are very weak. However, this has now become a theme among the Arabs – the strength of weakness. Assad in Syria is sitting on a powder keg so we are not allowed to touch him. Mubarak can die any minute and send Egypt into civil war, so we can’t pressure him too much.

    The same with the PA. They are so inept, so corrupt, so petty and self-defeating, that Israel has to make unilateral concessions just to keep them at the table! Who created this insanity?!

    Middle did not even consider the role of Hamas, or the larger issue of Iranian interference within Hamas decision-making, which appears to be following the Hezbollah model.

  7. Ben-David

    12/1/2009 at 12:07 pm

    Morrissey nails it:
    the Palestinians make their wild threats, which frighten you so much, out of weakness.
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    Egypt has soured on the Palis.
    Jordan? Absent from “the process” for almost a decade.
    The Saudis have their own troubles – see, Middle, I do read the headlines.

    The only sucker-punch here is Bibi’s masterful bob-and-weave handling of an antagonistic White House.

    He now has insulated himself from that White House’s eagerness to demonize him – the “bad cops” in this good cop, bad cop routine are Liberman and other pols unknown to most Americans, anonymous soldiers holding up “hell, no” banners – no better way to drive home to the Americans that it is not just “evil Bibi” but the entire Israeli populace that is opposed to 2 states West of the Jordan.

    Bibi and Liberman have worked masterfully to move the conversation away from the Oslo 2-state paradigm.

    They have also moved quickly to capitcalize on the fear generated by Obama’s abandonment of small democracies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

  8. themiddle

    12/1/2009 at 1:35 pm

    No such thing as “weakness” for the Palestinians, Tom. Sorry.

    Weakness is when your job is on the line. Is Abbas’s job on the line? Is Fayyad’s?

    Nope.

    Weakness is when you actually have something to lose.

    What do they have to lose? They didn’t have a state yesterday, they don’t control Israel or Jerusalem, they don’t control the West Bank and they know nobody wants Gaza. So it’s not as if they have anything to lose.

    Are their brethren from abroad back? No. They are living in refugee camps in Lebanon or getting law degrees in international law at Canadian universities. What do they have to lose there? Nothing.

    They have a government, a small but growing American trained and funded army, a plan to build out their government so that it can manage a state, diplomatic and legal tentacles that reach into every corner of the West, prominent and numerous shills who will protest and boycott Israel all over Europe and North America, and effective activism in many major universities. No losses here, only gains.

    Diplomatically, they have also gained a great deal of momentum, because alongside the the usual Muslim bloc’s support, they can now count on the Europeans for a great deal of support. Certainly they have nothing to lose there as long as they stay away from blatant terror attacks (rockets launched at civilian centers are apparently acceptable to the EU). No losses or weakness here.

    Obama has not withdrawn support for anybody, except Israel. It’s not happenstance that Clinton used harsh language against the settlements, without qualifying between settlements and east Jerusalem and it’s no accident that Bibi was granted only a late-night, media-absent, visit with the leader of Israel’s greatest ally. Abbas was given proper treatment by the President. Certainly, after Bush Jr., Obama is no loss for the Palestinians but a net gain. If you need proof, look at the servility garnered by Abbas’s “threat” to leave the political arena. No losses here, just gains.

    Israeli senior officers and politicians are afraid to set foot on the soil of certain European countries, while any Hamas terrorist can do so fearlessly. Jewish students are cowed on campus after campus all over North America, unless they join the shouts of “apartheid Israel,” “Zionism is racism,” and “tear down the wall” while Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and Leftist Palestinian advocates openly and confidently spit out the word “Zionist” as if they were saying “Nazi.” The IDF is questioning how the hell it’s supposed to fight its next war, while it tries to deal with a mini-revolt by a small but important group of young soldiers whose actions may be reflecting a wider movement. No losses there, just gains. Not just short term gains, either, these are all long term gains the impact of which will grow and grow.

    And ultimately, Tom, what you’ve misunderstood, in case all of the above isn’t sufficient for you, is that the Palestinian plan is TO WAIT. They not only have nothing to lose, they have time as a result.

    They don’t care whether the UN does or does not grant them this new wish because even if the UN does create a new resolution undermining 242, and even if the Security Council does, it is meaningless because the Palestinians know Israel isn’t going to pack up and leave. So then why do it? Because it buys them another inch, another right, another point of pressure with implications that it could wield even more leverage over Israel, make Israel’s anemic foreign diplomacy even weaker and continue to chip away at an Israel they perceive as limestone (a soft stone), not hard like granite. You just need time to wear down limestone and the Palestinians believe they see some serious cracks.

  9. themiddle

    12/1/2009 at 1:40 pm

    By the way, none of this is to say that Israel has lost the war or should shudder in fear. Israel needs to be aware and needs to fight back with more sophistication and less brutishness. It needs to be clever and start fighting back by fighting the type of war the Palestinians are fighting, not what some Israeli politicians think they are fighting. Whether these politicians figure it out and actually fight back the way this war needs to be fought is a different question, but I’m not suggesting for a minute that Israel has lost a war or its future. I’m talking about what the Palestinians are doing, why they are doing it and why they can get away with doing it.

  10. Jason Voorhes

    12/1/2009 at 1:56 pm

    hey themiddle i have some good news, the swiss have banned the construction of new minarets, isnt that great

    also people died in a recent flooding in jeddah

    • themiddle

      12/1/2009 at 2:38 pm

      Why is that good news?

      • froylein

        12/1/2009 at 4:19 pm

        Middle, it’s CTC. To him, anything that might get you riled up is good news.

  11. Tori

    12/1/2009 at 11:34 pm

    I actually think Israel is moving in the right direction. I think Bibi understands that army/conventional wars against terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Gaza, etc. are a mistake (I only wish we learned this lesson here in the US, but that’s another story). I think the IDF is now reworking this strategy. After every kassam launched into Israel since Bibi took over, the IDF has responded in kind and then some -instead of letting it all build up and then launching some full scale attack that is on the evening news 24/7 worldwide.

    Obama ridiculed the Likud before the Likud won, because Obama and his dream team campaigned for Kadima and fully expected them to win…but Bibi, as Ben David pointed out, has done pretty well pretty well maneuvering a very hostile and naive Obama administration.

    Israel also has to wait things out. They have to wait out the Obama administration. I don’t think another American president this sympathetic to Arabs or Palestinians will come along so fast. I believe that’s why the Palestinians are launching full scale ahead. They know they only have 3-7 years to have this kind of backing by an American president.

    You also completely left Hamas out of the equation. If Abbas wants to play tough then the IDF can stop protecting him. It is reported in major news publications that outside of Ramallah Abbas cannot go anywhere without IDF protection.

  12. Tom Morrissey

    12/2/2009 at 12:47 pm

    Middle, I agree with you that Obama is better, far better for the Palestinians than Bush. Even a powerful figure like Obama, though, has to execute his policies with some degree of comepetence. And fortunately so far for Israel, he’s been at his bungling worst in the Mideast.

    For the next stretch, we can count on his continuing to be distracted with bigger fish to fry– Iran, Afghanistan, etc.

    But with nothing happening bilaterally, Obama remains the whole ballgame. Witness the Palestinians’ stomping around like two year-olds, pleading for his attention.

  13. themiddle

    12/2/2009 at 1:40 pm

    The US is not the whole ballgame. Haaretz is reporting that the EU has put together a document outlining their support for a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

  14. Avigdor

    12/2/2009 at 2:46 pm

    The sooner the settlement freeze is ended (or killed off), the better. Settlements are the single biggest leverage Israel has, which is precisely why they are most vociferously opposed by the Arabs. If a Palestinian state is formed, it is far better that it is formed with a substantial (and rapidly growing) Jewish minority that can have a moderating influence and leverage on its internal dynamics. We have nothing to lose by throwing the Palestinians a few dozen settlements to deal with, and forcing them to abide by the same standards of civil society and protection of minority rights that they demand in Israel.

  15. Tom Morrissey

    12/2/2009 at 2:49 pm

    That’s not far from the US position, if not identical to it. It’s the how and when, not the what. And anyway, it all goes through Washington. The EU is not going to displace the US in that part of the world.

  16. Avigdor

    12/2/2009 at 3:22 pm

    Successful Israeli diplomacy would draw parallels between the EU dividing Jerusalem and the Soviet Union dividing Berlin. The Jewish people will not accept this outcome, as the German people did not accept what was imposed on them. That, followed by approval of 10,000 more housing projects in East Jerusalem would settle the issue.

  17. themiddle

    12/2/2009 at 4:13 pm

    The Europeans matter. There are a number of reasons, but the most prominent among them is that it’s one thing when an anti-Israel measure passes in the UN with the Europeans and Americans abstaining or voting against. The EU is also a major trading partner for Israel. They can’t be dismissed so easily.

  18. Avigdor

    12/2/2009 at 4:32 pm

    The basic point is that as long as we’re playing by the rules the Palestinian set, nothing can be done. We will always be on the defensive, responding to their provocations, their diplomacy, their initiatives. The only way to change this is by addressing the “2-state” framework and conditions of Oslo, which created this situation in the first place. We can’t keep saying “2-state” and then delay that indefinitely. If the Palestinians were being held to account for their obligations, that’s one thing, but this is just not happening.

  19. David

    12/2/2009 at 4:41 pm

    To all those who believe that the arabs living within Israel’s borders have gained anything in recent years are delusional. They are the declared enemy of the Jewish state of Israel and must be controlled by the IDF until they agree to become civilized residents and respect the country in which they are permitted to reside in. The only solution and I hope one that is seriously being considered, is total expulsion of complete familes of anyone who promotes or acts against the state of Israel.

  20. Avigdor

    12/3/2009 at 1:49 am

    David, I think you missed the point of the article. Read it again.

  21. themiddle

    12/3/2009 at 4:47 am

    What Avigdor said.

  22. ck

    12/3/2009 at 7:57 am

    David wrote: The only solution and I hope one that is seriously being considered, is total expulsion of complete familes (sic.) of anyone who promotes or acts against the state of Israel.

    If we apply that democratically we’ll have to expel a lot of Haredim, a whole mess of settlers and right wingers, numerous supporters of opposition parties, a good chunk of the army and reservists, pissed off cab drivers, surly teenagers, anyone who speeds on the highway, drug users, importers of Chinese products into Israel, currency speculators, a number of philanthropists and their employees, almost the entire city of Tel Aviv etc. and me because I would not want to live in a country like that.

    Wait… we could deport the hippies. Send them to India with one way tickets and tell them its a free vacation. Also we can deport all those guys who keep opening Bagel shops where they produce imitation NY-Style bagels. A poor imitation of an abomination is like a double abomination. Yeah… that would be good. Lets do it!

  23. Ben-David

    12/4/2009 at 5:16 am

    CK – expulsion is a valid punishment for seditious acts, like terrorism.

    (My personal problem with it is that the terrorist is likely to join up with his homies, rather than suffer.)

    We have also seen that social and communal sanctions work to stop Palestinian terror and recruitment. There are a lot of Palis who don’t want their families involved in this, and a credible threat of dispossesion/financial ruin helps them avoid being tagged “collaborators” in the sick, Sicily-on-steroids world of Hamastan-Gaza and the Wild West Bank.

    The British stopped train bombings by having local Arab sheiks in the engine car of each train.

    I also think any terrorist with blood on their hands should be executed if found guilty.

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