Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
Palestinians look at the damage after a house was set on fire and a baby killed, allegedly by Jewish terrorists, in the West Bank village of Duma, on July 31, 2015. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
Earlier this week, Hamas called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday to protest against what it claimed were efforts “to harm al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem. It is unlikely anybody in Israel’s security establishment was unduly bothered. Hamas has been trying for some time to heat up the West Bank, without much success. But what happened overnight in Duma, south of Nablus, entirely changes the picture.
The despicable murder of 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha, in an attack that also leaves his mother, father and brother fighting for their lives, is likely to shatter the Palestinians’ indifference. The Day of Rage that seemed unlikely to bring thousands into the streets may now become a day of violent confrontation and the start of the escalation Hamas has long been seeking.
Sickeningly, the Jewish terrorists allegedly responsible for the Duma attack are helping an Islamist terror group achieve its goals.
There is, it should be stressed, no guarantee that a widespread Palestinian protest will erupt and be sustained. For years, the Palestinian masses have refrained from joining the Islamists’ efforts at escalation against Israel, for several reasons: a lack of motivation given the scars of the Second Intifada; the desire to find employment and a better quality of life; and deep disappointment in both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
A man shows a picture of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha who died when his family house was set on fire by alleged Jewish extremists in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)
Factors like these produced an indifference in the West Bank that even the murder last summer of East Jerusalem teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir did not shatter. But there was also another central factor in the relative West Bank calm: The PA leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the same leadership that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon insist is no partner for peace, has long been working as Israel’s fire department. Time after time, the PA has managed to calm the Palestinian public, even in times of high tension such as during last summer’s 50-day Operation Protective Edge, and to thwart dozens of planned attacks on Israelis.
In the Israeli security establishment, a rare consensus has prevailed among the Shin Bet, the Military Intelligence and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories that Abbas is part of the solution, not the problem. But Israel’s political leadership has refused to accept this, and remained insistent that Abbas was “not a partner.”
The attack in the early hours of Friday was still more grave than the killing of Abu Khdeir. This time, a baby has been killed and three other people are critically injured — an entire family virtually wiped out by alleged Jewish murderers.
Abbas faces an acute dilemma. If he allows widespread demonstrations against Israel, he boosts Hamas and crowns the Day of Rage as a great success for his Islamist rivals. If he tries to prevent a major outburst of protest, he will be portrayed as an Israeli collaborator, and that will damage his standing, at Hamas’s expense, even further.
But whatever now unfolds in the immediate aftermath of the terror attack, it seems certain that revenge attacks will follow — by Hamas and others, against Israelis, in the West Bank and inside Israel.
Abbas is likely to try to stop this escalation. But if he feels that the flames are closing in on him, it would be no surprise were he to follow through on his frequent threats to end PA security cooperation with Israel, and/or to announce his resignation.