The start of the operation in Jenin this morning by the Israel Defense Forces represents the culmination of a process taking place over the past few years in which the Palestinian Authority has been weakening in the area and the struggle over control of the West Bank after Abu Mazen has been strengthening. Hamad and Islamic Jihad have been taking advantage of the situation in the area, which is mainly agricultural, to inject millions of shekels since the start of the year to encourage terror activities.
As a rule, it is difficult to necessarily link a negative or positive economic situation with increasing or decreasing terrorist activity, all the more considering that the Palestinian Authority launched the second Intifada when its economic situation was at its peak. However, a look at Jenin shows that since the Jalama checkpoint was opened to Israeli Arabs, and the economy in Jenin flourished - terrorism in Jenin has decreased.
The Jenin refugee camp officially has about 22,000 refugees. According to UNRWA data, the organization provides basic education to 1,750 students in four local elementary schools. The Jenin refugee camp is a small part of the total 37.3 square kilometers of the Jenin region, where 49,000 residents live.
UNRWA's activities does not stop 25% of Jenin's population from identifying with Islamic Jihad, which operates as a pro-Iranian militia. Hundreds of Islamic Jihad activists currently operate in Jenin's refugee camp. The leadership of the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and Syria invests a lot of effort in providing ammunition, money and military training to terrorist operatives in Jenin in general and the refugee camp in particular, in order to act against IDF forces in the region and even to carry out attacks in Israel.
At the same time, about 20% of the population in Jenin is identified with Hamas, which works through dozens of its operatives in the region to strengthen the terrorist organization's infrastructure in the West Bank city, and regularly praises the threats made by Jenin's residents, and incites for the continuation of terrorism from the area towards Israel.
Since the start of 2023, with sponsorship from Islamic Jihad and Hamas, there have been over 50 shooting attacks by terrorists coming from the Jenin area. In addition, 19 terrorists have fled to the Jenin refugee camp after carrying out attacks since September 2022.
The aim of the IDF in the current operation is to be as 'surgical' as possible, and focus on the Jenin refugee camp, and as far as is possible, not affect elsewhere in Judea and Samaria, or the Gaza Strip. What indicates this is the number of Palestinian laborers who continue to find their livelihood in Israel, including 3,000 workers from the Gaza Strip and about 63,000 workers who entered Israel today from Judea and Samaria, as well as about 15,000 Palestinian laborers working locally in Jewish settlements.
According to the World Bank, in 2022 approximately 22.5% of working Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria were employed in Israel, as well as only 0.8% of working residents of the Gaza Strip.
The importance of the Palestinian workers who enter Israel is great, because their daily wages in Israel are more than double what they can earn in the Palestinian territories. In 2023, the Palestinian economy has been struggling, after slowing down from 7% growth in 2021 to 3.9% last year. According to the World Bank, Palestinian growth will be around 3% in the coming years.
Fertile ground for terrorist organizations
The region around the Jenin refugee camp is more agricultural, and a more religious area, which traditionally produces more terrorism, and makes it difficult to grant work permits to local residents. Global warming is showing its signs there as everywhere in the world, damaging the crops, with people turning from poor to destitute, creating fertile ground for terrorist organizations to take in young religious people, who do not remember the IDF's Defensive Shield operation in 2002, and mobilize them for their benefit.
As far as Iran is concerned, this is the easiest solution for adding Judea and Samaria in general and Jenin in particular to its spheres of influence in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria.
In Tehran, they are probably aware of the latest data from Ramallah that unemployment in the Palestinian territories was 24.4% in 2022: 45.3% in the Gaza Strip and 13.1% in Judea and Samaria. Last May, the World Bank warned that the growing tensions in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, alongside the consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, pose significant risks - which are indeed being realized following the growing tensions in Jenin.
Vacuum of authority
Tel Aviv University Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) managing director Maj. Gen. (res.) Tamir Hayman and former IDF intelligence chief told "Globes, "The Palestinian Authority has disappeared in Jenin in terms of being in control but not in economic and civil terms.
"Only recently it was reported that a new Palestinian Authority clinic opened in Jenin. There are also work permits for the residents of Jenin. The narrative that talks about the loss of the Palestinian Authority in the northern West Bank concerns security matters and the challenges facing the Palestinian Authority's security forces against Islamic Jihad and Hamas."
The connection between economic wellbeing and terrorism is groundless. "Although it seems intuitively to us that welfare leads to a reduction in terrorism, it reduces the scope of those who join terrorism, not the intensity of terrorism and its participants. There is no room for a correlation. Jenin is an area that relies on agriculture and work in Israel, so it is a little more independent from the relationship with the Palestinian Authority".
"Linking only the economic situation to what is happening in Jenin is ignoring two significant factors," Brig. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nurial, former head of the counter-terrorism bureau at the Prime Minister's Office tells "Globes." Firstly, there is the succession struggle in Judea and Samaria for the day after Abu Mazen. The succession struggle is making all parties improve their positions, and improving positions necessarily means buying more weapons, recruiting operatives and carrying out terrorist acts, including among themselves.
"Secondly, the new generation, the generation after Operation Defensive Shield is a generation of more or less 20-year-olds who are undergoing significant incitement, social networks that stir them up and a feeling that there is no way out, the lack of a real address."
Nuriel says, "The Palestinian Authority is not really present in the Jenin area. This crucible is causing young people to do what their parents did 20 years ago. There is a governing vacuum of the Palestinian Authority in the area, especially over the last two years. The Jenin area has always been very violent, number one in producing terrorists and suicide bombers. It is an area that is mainly rural, and such areas are more radical. The same is true in the south in the Hebron hills. So conducts in the area is not surprising. The combination of all these things means that over the past 18 months the area has been very turbulent."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 3, 2023.
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