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Counter Terrorism Today – 1/11/15

This edition of ICToday discusses the nature of the recent wave of violence in Israel. Is it a new Intifada? Or is it part of a bigger Middle Eastern strategy? To answer these questions, this edition of ICToday features three scholars: Maj. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Yom Tov Samia (Former Head of the Southern Command, IDF), Mr. Edan Landau (Researcher and Project Manager, ICT) and Mr. Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs)

The discussion started with Maj. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Yom Tov Samia and the difficulty in understanding the real nature of this threat. Current events certainly show a wave of violence, but at the same time, it differs from past events. For example, this wave of violence features very young boys and girls taking part. Maj. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Samia believes that the most crucial element of this wave is the Israeli Arab identity. What do they want to be – Israeli citizens and fulfil all the obligation of being a citizen of the country? Or do they want to be Palestinians and move to the PLO? A difficult decision to make, made even harder by the mistakes made by their representative in the Knesset, who are indirectly inciting the violence rather than fighting for their rights.

Mr. PinhasInbari continued on this path and admitted that although it is true that members of the Knesset are inciting violence, their actions have to be contextualized. They receive a lot of external pressures. Qatar, for example, is negatively influencing not only the Israeli Arabs, but the entire Middle East.

Continuing the discussion, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Yom Tov Samia denied a structured role of Hamas as they often act without a clear logic and as their current relationship with people in Gaza is somehow troubling. Talking from a bigger perspective, Israel’s real challenge should be avoiding in the future reacting to a situation nourished by the subtle actions of Hamas, but rather acting pre-emptively. Israel made this mistake already with the tunnels from Gaza into Israel.

Mr. Edan Landau introduced a new point of view in the debate. He explained why this is a low intensity conflict, with no clear involvement from the political leaders. Difficult to counter without being disproportionate. Furthermore, the absence of bombings or more spectacular type of attacks allows the attackers to get a sort of international legitimacy and avoid the outcry of the international community.

Answering a question on the role of Hamas and Fatah in this wave of violence, Mr. Inbari clarified why in his opinion Hamas in not interested in toppling Abu Mazen’s government. Abu Mazen is actually serving their cause by presenting to the international community the statehood claim. Hamas knows very well that if they openly challenge Abu Mazen, Israel’s reaction will lead to a war that dismantle Hamas in Gaza, to the joy of the regime in Ramallah. They prefer therefore to keep attacking Israel from the West Bank rather than overthrowing Abu Mazen.

Maj. Gen. (Res.) Dr. Samia intervened to express his hostility to the concept of low intensity conflict albeit he noted that it is widely accepted. Rather, he posited that this is a war; they have rockets, there have been air force strikes, and this is a war scenario. A war that will last until the Palestinians will try to solve the situation on the battlefield. Today, they don’t have leaders with a vision, as Arafat was (had the power and influence but refused to try diplomacy).

Is there an underlying religious motivation in this recent wave of violence? According to Mr. Inbari, Fatah has recently undergone an Islamization process. An example is the Jerusalem website of Fatah where there is no reference to any Christian church. Fatah wants to be part of the Islamic struggle. Mr. Landau delved a bit more into this issue, pinpointing how the competition from ISIS and Al-Qaeda to get the support of the youth, has lead Fatah to radicalize its discourse and make it more religious in order to retain the support of its youngest audience.

There is however a demand for normalcy from Israeli Arabs, and even more quietly from people in West Bank, that cannot be ignored. This gives hopes that an actual integration in the society occurred and that this recent wave of violence may end soon.

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