The forces be­hind Is­rael’s ter­ror wave

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

THE lo­ca­tion of the most se­ri­ous at­tack this week in Is­rael — the south­ern city of Beer­sheva — as well as the fact that the per­pe­tra­tor was an Is­raeli Be­douin, has raised con­cern that the three-week ter­ror wave could be spread­ing.

In the at­tack, IDF Sergeant Omri Levi was shot dead by Mo­hammed Elokbi, from the Be­douin town of Hura, and Hev­tum Zarhom, an Eritrean mi­grant, was mis­tak­enly shot by a se­cu­rity guard and then fa­tally beaten by civil­ians who be­lieved he was an ac­com- plice. De­spite the sever­ity of the in­ci­dent, it is not yet an in­di­ca­tion that the vi­o­lence is spread­ing to Is­rael’s Arab cit­i­zens. So far, out of close to 100 di­rect at­tacks, only two have def­i­nitely been car­ried out by Is­raeli cit­i­zens seek­ing to kill Jews. Nearly all the at­tacks in Jerusalem, and within the pre-1967 “Green Line” bor­ders, were car­ried out by res­i­dents of East Jerusalem; Pales­tini­ans with “blue” iden­tity cards who can travel through­out Is­rael.

The fig­ures point to a num­ber of pre­lim­i­nary — and per­haps tem­po­rary — con­clu­sions.

While there have been ris­ing num­bers of vi­o­lent protests, both in Is­raeliArab towns and neigh­bour­hoods and in the West Bank, there is not yet a wide­spread up­ris­ing by any stan­dard.

More­over, it seems that, for now, eco- nomic con­sid­er­a­tions trump na­tion­al­ist feel­ings. Around 100,000 West Bank Pales­tini­ans work in Is­rael daily, half of them le­gally, which is a cru­cial source of in­come. Like­wise, the Is­raeli-Arab econ­omy is de­pen­dent on busi­ness with the Jewish sec­tor.

What­ever the pol­i­tics, nei­ther of th­ese com­mu­ni­ties is pre­pared at this stage to jeop­ar­dise liveli­hoods with a third in­tifada.

While there have been ex­cep­tions, the pro­file of the typ­i­cal per­pe­tra­tor re­mains a teenager, or young man in his 20s, liv­ing in East Jerusalem. The mo­tives for draw­ing a knife and try­ing to stab Jews — an ac­tion that al­most al­ways ends in be­ing shot and, in just over half the cases, death — re­main mixed. On­line in­cite­ment over al­leged Jewish de­signs on Al Aqsa, frus­tra­tion over liv­ing in a per­pet­u­ally dis­ad­van­taged neigh­bour­hood with­out any clear na­tional sta­tus, ro­man­tic de­sires to be­come mar­tyrs, lack of faith in the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship, weak parental con­trol, all play their part.

Ha­mas has tried to take credit for the at­tacks, while the Pales­tinian Author­ity has largely re­mained on the side­lines, ac­cus­ing Is­rael of “ex­e­cut­ing” the at­tack­ers. But they are as pow­er­less to di­rect the per­pe­tra­tors as much as Is­rael’s se­cu­rity forces are to pre­dict and pre­vent them in ad­vance.

The at­tempt to erect bar­ri­ers and check­points at the ex­its of Pales­tinian neigh­bour­hoods is more of a pop­ulist sop to Is­raeli pub­lic opin­ion than an ef­fec­tive tac­tic. As was the ar­rest on Tues­day morn­ing of West Bank Ha­mas leader Has­san Yousef, a man with lit­tle in­flu­ence nowa­days.

At the cen­tre of the mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tors re­mains Tem­ple Mount. This week, it was rel­a­tively calm. The streets lead­ing to the mount, which have been the scene of daily at­tacks, are now sat­u­rated with po­lice.

A pro­posal by the French gov­ern­ment to sta­tion in­ter­na­tional ob­servers on the mount swiftly led to their am­bas­sador in Is­rael be­ing called in for a telling-off. US State Sec­re­tary John Kerry is now talk­ing of some­how en­hanc­ing and ac­tu­ally writ­ing down the rules of the “sta­tus quo” on the mount. Both Amer­i­can and French pro­pos­als are doomed to fail­ure.

The un­writ­ten sta­tus quo, which Mr Ne­tanyahu in­sists he has no in­ten­tion of chang­ing, does not nec­es­sar­ily mean the same thing to both sides. For the Pales­tini­ans, it means that the Al Aqsa com­pound is un­der ex­clu­sive Is­lamic con­trol. For Is­rael, it means that the Mus­lim Waqf re­tains man­age­ment of the site but that Jews may still visit it and the po­lice re­tain se­cu­rity re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Of­fi­cially, the sta­tus quo has been in force since 1967, but there are no guar­an­tees that lead­ers on any side can ef­fi­ciently en­force it. In­ter­na­tional ob­servers, even if they were to be al­lowed in, could not ad­ju­di­cate on the com­pet­ing claims, not only be­tween Jews and Mus­lims, but be­tween ri­val Mus­lim fac­tions.

The Pales­tinian Author­ity, the Jor­da­ni­ans, the Ha­mas-aligned Is­lamic Move­ment, as well as some Is­raeli rightwing politi­cians, all use Al Aqsa or Tem­ple Mount for their po­lit­i­cal pur­poses. Ob­servers would only add a fur­ther layer of ten­sion and any at­tempt to ac­tu­ally put the sta­tus quo down on pa­per will lead to in­ter­minable dis­putes on word­ing.

Mr Ne­tanyahu and his Defence Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon have gen­er­ally avoided tak­ing steps that could es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion, such as mass-ar­rests and a gen­eral clo­sure of the West Bank.

The length of this wave of vi­o­lence will ul­ti­mately be de­ter­mined by the num­ber of Pales­tinian young­sters pre­pared to kill and die for post­hu­mous mar­tyr­dom. Elim­i­nat­ing their mo­ti­va­tion to do so is be­yond both Is­raeli and Pales­tinian lead­ers.

Pales­tinian stu­dents hold an anti-Is­rael demon­stra­tion in Khan Yu­nis, Gaza, this week


IDF soldier Omri Levi, shot dead this week in Beer­sheva

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