What's behind the spate of terror in Israel?

Terror attack in Hadera Photo: Police Spokesperson
Terror attack in Hadera Photo: Police Spokesperson

Israel has relaxed restrictions, the Palestinian economy is doing well, and the Gaza front is quiet, so why now?

We are on eleven killed and about twenty injured in this terror wave, and the great fear of the security forces is that the success of the terrorists in three lethal attacks in Beersheva, Hadera, and Bnei Brak, will encourage more.

On the face of it, the attacks are unconnected: a Bedouin from the Negev with nationalist leanings; two extreme Islamist Israeli Arabs connected to ISIS; and a Palestinian terrorist from the West Bank. In fact, there is a close and direct connection of atmosphere, encouragement and unceasing incitement on the part of terrorist organizations and political leaders, while several conditions for such an outbreak of terror have emerged.

The security forces are wont to describe the territories as a "bubbling cauldron", for economic, political, and other reasons, on which the lid is kept tight shut by various means, partly military, but mostly economic. The moderating effect of an economy that is in a reasonable state and is developing is huge, and prevents a popular uprising like the two intifadas. Effective security measures help to thwart most terrorist attacks, which are almost all stopped at the planning stage in the terrorists' homes.

The relative quiet has, however, perhaps led to a degree of lassitude and an exaggerated sense of security. We live in a hostile environment in which the desire to annihilate Israel is alive and kicking, and the bubbling cauldron spills over now and then. The consequences of successful attacks are far-reaching. Israel looks more and more vulnerable, the Israel Security Agency and the security forces are seen to have failed, and the video clips and security camera footage showing terrorists opening fire in the heart of Israeli cities are a highly effective catalyst. Israel looks vulnerable and weak. As one assessment from a security source described it in a closed discussion: "They smell blood. Suddenly, strong Israel is taking blows, and the attacks manage to inflict pain, and even more, to have a victory effect through clips of the attacks on social networks that go viral very fast." The influence of the video clips and the praise expressed in them for the "heroes" represent extremely strong encouragement.

Quiet on Gaza front raises motivation

Why now particularly? Why now, when it looks as though there is progress between Israel and the Palestinians, with a government relaxing restrictions, and that even contains an Israeli Arab, not to mention Islamist, party? Perhaps actually because of that. The Abraham Accords aroused strong opposition among the Palestinians, and also among extreme Israeli Arab groups. In the past few weeks, this bitterness has been visible on the relevant social networks, with the Arab foreign minister summit in the Negev and President Herzog's schedules visit to Jordan tomorrow.

As mentioned, the motivation to attack Israel among terrorist organizations in the territories and in certain circles of Israeli Arab society exists all the time, and there is a coalition of various parties that encourage, and even finance it from the outside: Iran, Hezbollah, ISIS, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and so on. That was manifest in Operation Guardian of the Walls in May last year, which sounded a loud alarm that barely reached our ears because of the formation of the new government and the apparent changes it was introducing. These changes, however, have no effect on the hard, extreme core.

The apparently successful campaign by the police against Arab crime organizations and the seizure of many weapons actually hardly touched the arsenal of weapons available to anyone who wants in Israeli Arab society. At most, prices rose. The combination of strong nationalist motivation that does not stem from poverty (the terrorists from Umm el-Fahm came from a well-to-do family) or from a sense of deprivation, together with the availability of firearms and access to Israeli cities, are a constantly ticking bomb. All that's needed is a suitable opportunity and - and this is important - a religious or national occasion. Today, Israeli Arabs mark Land Day, and Ramadan begins on Saturday. All these things, together with a constant stream of incitement over the Al Aqsa mosque and East Jerusalem, plus clashes on the West Bank and the killing of Palestinians, provided the necessary spur.

And there's something else: paradoxically, the flare up now is because of the quiet from the Gaza Strip. Hamas is being very cautious over making direct attacks for several reasons: it is still licking its severe wounds from Operation Guardian of the Walls, while the Gaza Strip's economy is improving thanks to many relaxations by Israel and the promotion of civilian projects to improve the standard of living. The unemployment rate is falling, and the average wage is rising. At present, it doesn't pay Yahya Sinwar, Hamas leader in Gaza, to renew hostilities.

What does pay? Attempts by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to promote attacks from Judea and Samaria, and the new trend of the past year, "the war within", that is, within Israel, and intense encouragement of Israeli Arabs to rise up, riot, and attack. This is not necessarily a matter of actually recruiting operatives and equipping them with arms and money. It is rather a matter of inspiration from afar, and egging on amid extensive use of false reports, such as "Al Aqsa is in danger."

What should be done? Israel is in a dilemma. First of all, the requisite security measures have been introduced, such as raising the level of alert in the police, cancelling non-urgent operations, and maximum deployment on the ground. The IDF is reinforcing along the seam line and on the main roads in Judea and Samaria, while the Israel Security Agency, which has been subjected to severe criticism for having failed to track four terrorists in the recent attacks, is also stepping up activity. They have been joined by other security agencies that are giving assistance, and preparations have started for calling up reservists, mainly of the Border Police, but also of the IDF.

On the economic front, the problem is acute. Should Palestinians be stopped from entering Israel, for example? Yesterday, at the end of the situation assessment held by IDF Central Command, it was decided that Palestinians would not be allowed to go to work in settlements in Judea and Samaria, other than in industrial zones and factories. Meanwhile, within the Green Line, without orders from above, without a closure of the territories and without a prohibition on entry, dozens of local authorities in Israel have given instructions not to bring Palestinian workers into their jurisdictions, the Association of Renovations Contractors has reported that many contractors have told their Palestinian employees not to come to work, and many Palestinians will refrain from entering Israel of their own accord. 140,000 Palestinians from Judea and Samaria and another 13,000 to 20,000 from the Gaza Strip work in Israel. Their wages, which are three times higher than the average in the Palestinian Authority, are important fuel for the Palestinian economy, and support half a million families. One of the reasons that Palestinian Authority head Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) issued a condemnation of the terrorist attacks is the fear that the various relaxations that Israel has made in the economic sphere, particularly in permits to enter Israel, will be halted.

The inclination at the moment is to impose a closure on Judea and Samaria only on the main holiday days of Ramadan and to act mainly against the entry of Palestinians without permits through holes in the separation fence. There are, however, some in the security forces who advocate an immediate closure, at least until the beginning of next week.

Abu Mazen told Israel yesterday that his people would continue to take action to prevent terrorist attacks and to calm the atmosphere. According to a senior Palestinian source, Abu Mazen also promised both King Abdullah of Jordan, whom he met on Monday in Ramallah, and US Secretary of State Blinken, who was in his bureau on Sunday, that he would do everything to prevent escalation.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 30, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Terror attack in Hadera Photo: Police Spokesperson
Terror attack in Hadera Photo: Police Spokesperson
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