Posted tagged ‘Palestiian Authority’

Preventing an intifada

July 23, 2017

Preventing an intifada, Israel Hayom, Yoav Limor, July 23, 2017

(How likely is that Jordan, much of the population of which is “Palestinian,” will provide significant help in diminishing the current crisis? — DM)

The one scenario Israel strives to avoid at this point is a third intifada, a senior defense source said over the weekend. The words “third intifada” have been at the heart of every security assessment held over the past week and this time, defense officials are saying it outright. This is also the scenario which the Shin Bet security agency and the IDF have been increasingly warning about over the past few days, and one that various overt and covert elements on the ground have made into a very real possibility.

Those comparing the unrest of the past week to the wave of mostly lone-wolf terrorism that erupted in October 2015 are wrong. The current crisis represents a much more slippery slope because it is fueled by religious rage. Past waves of terrorism, including the Second Intifada, the attempts to use security prisoners’ hunger strikes to agitate the Palestinian street, and other flare-ups in recent years, were more rationally motivated.

In the past, flare-ups were led by political forces seeking national gains by means of violence. This time the unrest is emotionally motivated, driven by the false notion that Al-Aqsa mosque is “in danger” of Israeli takeover. Israel’s repeated statements that it has no intention whatsoever to change the status quo on the Temple Mount continue to fall on deaf ears. The perceived threat to Al-Aqsa resonates across the Muslim world and generates a very negative trend, as evident by the hundreds of thousands of social media posts echoing the need to defend the holy site.

Another indication was the reaction on the Palestinian street to the gruesome terrorist attack in the Samaria community of Halamish, where a terrorist murdered three members of the Salomon family on Friday. The glory and support showered on the terrorist was unusual even for a society that regularly glorifies terrorists, raising concerns that others might very well follow in his footsteps.

The ease with which the terrorist managed to enter Halamish — despite the security fence surrounding it and the alert, which according to the initial investigation was mishandled by the rapid response team in the community — is likely to spur others to act. Several individuals have already openly said as much on social media. The defense establishment’s immediate challenge, therefore, is to prevent copycat attacks.

The decision to deploy large security contingents on the ground is meant to do just that: prevent terrorist attacks and lend the residents a sense of security. Past experience has shown that this would most likely be only partially successful as well as slow to happen, as it takes time to get a solid hold on an area, seal any breaches to the fence and exhaust intelligence.

Palestinian security forces took an active part in efforts to curb the last wave of terrorism, mostly over their own concerns of losing control over the Palestinian population. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ announcement over the weekend that the PA was suspending all security ties with Israel will undermine the Palestinian Authority, but it may also cost Israeli lives.

Israeli effort to curtail further security deterioration will therefore focus on four fronts: in Jerusalem, by the police; in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, by the military; and overseas, by the Shin Bet, which will try to prevent terrorist attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets abroad. The defense establishment’s working assumption is that this situation will be somewhat prolonged. The IDF has already diverted troops in a way that would sustain this special state of alert for at least a month, and it is preparing for the possibility that it will take longer to resolve.

But this operational effort is only part of the plan, alongside significant diplomatic efforts. The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet decided to keep the metal detectors installed last week on the Temple Mount, but according to Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, whose interview with Al Jazeera over the weekend meant to allay the concerns of the Arab street, the cabinet is currently seeking alternative solutions.

While the search for metal detector-free security measures continues, Israel must also find ways to assuage the concerns expressed by Arab leaders. The anti-Israeli consensus in recent days — at a time when Israel was able to make progress vis-a-vis many Middle East nations based on the shared need to curtail Iran’s regional ambitions and the joint war on Islamic State — is very troubling and must be addressed immediately.

The main effort in this respect must be directed at Jordan: As the nation controlling the Islamic trust that manages Al-Aqsa mosque, Amman plays a special role on the holy site and that should be leveraged when discussing the various alternatives and compromises.

Israel believes that even if an agreement is reached on a diplomatic level, some “braking distance” would still be required until the unrest on the ground is quelled. For this reason, “calm” will be the operative word in the coming days, as there is a need to calm the situation on the ground and tone down the rhetoric so as to facilitate an effective war on terror while minimizing any harm to civilians on both sides. This is a particularly complicated operation in terms of security and diplomacy, but it is essential if we are to avoid an unwanted escalation that would lead to a third intifada.