Terror wave in Israel defies clear narrative

TEL AVIV – Current rise terrorist attacks in Israelhave been viewed by Palestinian factions and militant groups as a logical consequence of Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Bank, Israel’s control of sensitive religious sites in Jerusalem, and its diminished commitment to several Arab leaders important to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

However, the diverse backgrounds of the attackers have left both Palestinian and Israeli analysts and officials uncertain about the relationship between the attackers, their respective motives, and the timing of the attacks. labour.

In the bloodiest wave of violence since 2016, there have been four attacks in four Israeli cities since March 22, involving five Arab attackers that left 14 people dead, including there are 2 Arab policemen and 2 Ukrainians. But beyond their deadly ending, the four episodes don’t easily fit into a simple story.

Two Most Recent Attacks – in Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak – made by Palestinians from the occupied West Bank. Although praised by several Palestinian movements, no group has officially claimed responsibility for them.

The two previous attacks were carried out by three members of Israel’s Arab minority, who sympathize with the Islamic State, the extremist group that has no ties to the Palestinian nationalist movement and has claimed responsibility, maybe an opportunity, for one case and not another. .

While the lethal results of the first attack, on March 22, may have inspired others to follow suit, a senior Israeli military officer said there is currently no evidence that any of them are the masterminds of a large group of Palestinians, but not yet. refer to the same network. Analysts also note that the attackers in the first two cases have no ideological connection to the latest two.

“I honestly don’t think they are the same,” said Bashaer Fahoum-Jayoussi, a chairwoman of the Abrahamic Initiative Council, a non-governmental group that promotes equality between Israeli Jewish and Palestinian citizens. each other. “There’s a huge difference between the profiles of these people.”

Fahoum-Jayoussi said that through their support of an all-Arab caliphate, the three attackers had driven them not only to Palestinian goals but also to the grievances of the Arab minority community. of Israel. About 20 percent of Israel’s population is Arab, most of whom are descendants of Palestinians who remained in Israel after its founding in 1948 and who still seeking more rights and recognition in the Jewish state.

In contrast, the motives of the two Palestinians in the West Bank “have more to do with the occupation and the injustices they are experiencing, not that it justifies anything,” said Fahoum-Jayoussi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, said.

“But why now?” she added. “What exactly has changed at this point?”

For some, the timing of the violence was hardly surprising, and even foretold.

Next weekend, religious festivals such as Passover, Ramadan and Easter will overlap in a rare convergence that will see an increase in the number of Jewish, Muslim and Christian worshipers heading to Jerusalem’s Old City. abnormal. That increases the risk of confrontation between Muslims and Jews, and increases long-standing grievances among Palestinians about restrictions on access to and control of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

But while there have been clashes in recent days around the Old City, tensions there have decreased compared with last year. Israel has allowed more West Bank Palestinians to attend prayers in Jerusalem than it did in 2021. And the Israeli Supreme Court has postponed the deportation of many Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, who have The predicament contributed to the unrest during last year’s Ramadan.

In recent months, the Israeli Government has attempted to defuse economic and social tensions in the occupied territories by issuing Israeli work permits to tens of thousands of Palestinians; by giving legal status to thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank formerly living in legal limbo; and by lending $156 million to the Palestinian Authority, which administers about 40% of the West Bank.

While groups like Hamas, the radical Islamic movement based in Gaza, have made a number of recent statements provoking against Israel and praising the wave of terror, Israeli officials do not believe the group is now looking to organize its own operations, according to the senior Israeli military. officer, spoke on condition of anonymity to comply with Israeli military regulations.

Given this context, the specific timing of the violence has confounded experienced analysts, even if they agree that the inherent instability of life in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza has always led to violence. can happen.

Ehud Yaari, a prominent Israeli analyst on Palestinian issues, said anyone “has identified a pattern or reason to explain the “why now” and “why this way”. “. “The most important factor is how random it is,” he added.

But for many Palestinians, the structural reasons behind the violence are clear, even if these specific attacks and their perpetrators do not have a clear unified story.

Although Israel’s recent concessions to the Palestinians have improved lives in small ways, the most basic aspirations of the Palestinians – a sovereign state – are still far away. Israel’s prime minister, Naftali Bennett, opposes Palestinian sovereignty and has ruled out peace talks during his term.

Mr. Bennett’s government has announced that it will build thousands of new buildings inside Israeli settlements in the West Bank, entrenched in 55 years of Israeli occupation. It still maintains a two-tier legal system there – one for Palestinians and one for Israeli settlers – and still restricts Palestinian movement within parts of it. With Egypt, Israel still enforces the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“For the Israelis, occupation is invisible,” said Nour Odeh, a Palestinian political analyst and former spokesman for the Palestinian Authority. But for Palestinians, “everywhere you look is a dead end,” she said.

“Of course, Palestinians will welcome improvements in their living standards,” added Odeh. “But they won’t forget that they’re occupied.”

A recent summit meeting in the Negev . desert between the four Arab foreign ministers and their Israeli and American counterparts also exacerbated the feelings of despair among many Palestinians.

The meeting was the first diplomatic meeting of so many Arab dignitaries on Israeli soil, and was held near the grave of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. It is also close to the heart of an ongoing property dispute between Bedouin families and the state of Israel – a case that, for young Palestinians, has become a symbol of widespread predicament. larger than theirs.

For many Palestinians, the combination of these factors made the meeting a scene of “absolute humiliation,” Odeh said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in Palestine who wouldn’t see those images and get angry.”

In addition, a small segment of young Palestinians may increasingly turn to violence as they grow increasingly angry with the Palestinian leadership, analysts say.

Originally seen as the government of a state in wait, the Palestinian Authority is now seen by the majority of Palestinians as the Proposal pollas a word for corruption.

The president of the agency, Mahmoud Abbas, is considered increasingly autocratic. He canceled the Palestinian elections last March, nominally because Israel would not allow Palestinians to vote in Jerusalem, but also because, privately, he feared losing, according to people familiar with his thinking.

“Most of the younger generation has lost faith in all Palestinian institutions,” said Yaari, an analyst.

Young Palestinians find that “the Palestinian national struggle is going nowhere, and it’s being led by people they don’t trust,” he added. “So some of them, not so many, but some of them, decided to get a revolver and do something with it.”

Yaari said the delay by Israeli intelligence agencies could also play some role in the two attacks by Israeli citizens. Two out of three Arab-Israelis were jailed for their links to Islamic State, but after they were released, he said, authorities “didn’t really monitor them or maintain surveillance on them.” .”

Comparatively, the Palestinian Authority’s negligence could also have allowed two Palestinians in the West Bank to prepare for their attacks undetected. The men are all from the Jenin area of ​​the north West Coast, an area nominally administered by the government but which government security forces have struggled to control in recent months, Senior Israeli officer said.

Jenin’s recent history also creates particularly fertile ground for Palestinian resentment, Odeh said.

The attacker who killed three Israelis this week in Tel Aviv was from the Jenin refugee camp. He was 8 years old when Israeli troops, fighting militants in the camp in 2002, destroyed hundreds of buildings there.

“This is a child who opened Jenin’s eyes in 2002, and before the utter devastation of the camp,” Ms Odeh said.

Jonathan Rosen Report contributions from Jerusalem.

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