In the wake of this week’s bus bomb in Bat Yam and stabbing of a policeman near Ramallah, Israeli newspapers are reporting a marked rise in terror attacks since the summer, though pundits are unsure whether they represent an intifada, or just a Festivus-like airing of grievances, to say nothing of the feats of strength.
Haaretz’s front page graphic makes the trend clear — 82 attacks in July, 99 in August, 133 in September, 136 in October, and a stunning 167 in November, according to the Shin Bet security service. The paper’s political cartoon shows an exploding bus, with one policeman saying to another, “Nothing to worry about! It’s not an intifada.”
“This is still not an intifada, it’s anarchy,” writes Yedioth Ahronoth’s Alex Fishman.
“There is a feeling that it has been easier to get work permits in Israel — because of the negotiations and the desire to strengthen Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] — and when the number of legal workers in Israel goes up, the number of illegal workers goes up too, from whom terror springs along the Green Line. On the Palestinian side, the idea of ‘one weapon, and that in the hands of the PA’ has weakened, and armed men are wandering the streets regularly.”
“The attacks in recent months have a connection,” said a security source to Yedioth, “and that is the incitement and the atmosphere of hatred in the PA against Israel. In the vast majority of cases we don’t see a guiding hand or organized terror infrastructure like we have seen in the past, but instead lone terrorists influenced by the incitement go out and kill Jews.”
“But if no one is truly interested in a third intifada,” Amir Rappaport asks in Maariv, “why is the level of violence rising? This first reason is the double message from the PA, which states that while terror attacks are not in the Palestinian interest, ‘popular resistance resulting in the periodic throwing of rocks and Molotov cocktails certainly is.’”
Maariv points out that last summer’s calm broke in August with the start of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, as the numbers have risen steadily since August. And the peace talks have another gift in store for Israel — the talks end in April, and the chances of success are small — “In the case of failure, a wave of attacks could break out, and it is not at all clear how intense it will be.”
Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit is none too impressed with the American-led talks, calling John Kerry’s team obsessed with “preparing drafts and writing notes… whatever is rejected is bypassed by alternate language, which in the future might also be bypassed.”
“Is there even Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” he continues, “or did Ramallah shut it down and force the sides to speak from a distance? Saeb Erekat said two days ago that there is still no conversation with the Israelis; both sides are only talking to Kerry. Over the last day, official Israel has maintained radio silence on the question of whether Erekat’s embarrassing description is accurate.”
“From these facts, we can see that the sides are digging into their positions. It’s not only that Abu Mazen opposes even the partial presence of Israel on the Jordan River, but that he demands that the IDF withdrawal from the territories take place within three years. Last night, Channel 2’s Ehud Yaari reported that Abbas is demanding for himself all of East Jerusalem. If this is a bargaining tactic, the negotiations are at their height. But if it is an ultimatum, then the negotiations are fated to fail resoundingly, and soon.”
‘If terrorists walk, so does Pollard’
With revelations from documents leaked by Edward Snowden that the US had spied on Israeli leaders, like it did to European officials, Israeli media are talking about the possibility that Netanyahu will push spy Jonathan Pollard’s release as part of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The main Haaretz editorial supports Pollard’s release, arguing that “many whose crimes are more serious than his, including murderers, are released after serving less time.”
“The effort needs to focus on achieving a quiet understanding on commuting the sentence to November 2015…One of Netanyahu’s predecessors said restraint is strength, and in this case Netanyahu can show that silence is prudence.”
Yedioth predicts that Netanyahu will condition progress in the talks on Pollard’s release. “The demand can be carried out in two ways: The release of the Israeli spy as part of the signing of the framework agreement the Americans are trying to achieve next month, or as part of a deal to release Arab Israeli prisoners.”
Yedioth also runs a letter from Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier held by Hamas for years, supporting Pollard’s release. “Please join me in a clear call to our American friends: We released dozens of terrorists with blood on their hands already, as you requested — now give us this one gesture. It could save his life.”