The recent uptick in terrorism in the West Bank is not the sign of a “popular uprising,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Tuesday after a tour of Hebron Central Command.
“There is no sign of a popular uprising or so-called third intifada,” he said. “There is no motivation for it, and we see no organization of it,” he added, noting: “Of course, we see all these events as a serious matter and are prepared for any escalation.”
He added that two recent attacks in the West Bank thought to be terror incidents may in fact have been criminally motivated.
“From my examination, we treat them as acts motivated by nationalism because of the extremely intolerable nature of stabbing a young girl or stabbing a Jew when you are caught red-handed in a robbery,” he said, referring to an attack on a 9-year-old, Noam Glick, in the settlement of Psagot and a later killing of a retired army colonel, Seraiah Ofer, in a Jordan Valley vacation village. “We see this as something serious. It may be that incitement from the Palestinian Authority or the recent religious events unleashed this.”
The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha took place last week.
Defense officials and analysts have warned in recent days that the West Bank may be heading for a popular uprising, citing the series of attacks. On Monday, former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin said the Palestinians were ripe for a third intifada.
However, Ya’alon said it was wrong to look at the attacks as small parts of a coordinated whole.
“We treat these events as a wave because it is a statistical anomaly,” he added. “When we analyze each event on its own facts, somebody committed it for one reason or another, often for a nationalist or criminal reason, such as the tractor in the Rama army base, but there is no organization behind it, not Fatah, not Hamas or any other organization,” he said.
“Of course, we are acting firmly against this terror. Most of these attacks we’ve uncovered and thwarted, and those that we haven’t uncovered, we will,” he said.
Ya’alon spoke in Hebron, hours after an Islamic Jihad terror suspect fled in the course of being arrested and was killed in a shootout with troops, setting off small-scale clashes with Palestinians.
While there were no organizations behind the attacks, Ya’alon laid the blame squarely on the Palestinian Authority for inciting violence.
“The incitement by the Palestinian Authority is, unfortunately, not new,” he said. “It intensifies around religious events, and I see the Palestinian Authority as responsible. This is incitement that begins with the education of children, incitement in the media, rhetoric of the leadership, not condemning terror attacks, creating public support for the attacks. In this way I see the Palestinian Authority as responsible, under the heading of ‘incitement.’”
Responding to a question about a prisoner release reportedly scheduled for later this month as part of ongoing peace talks, Ya’alon said he believed Israel would go through with it despite the recent attacks.
“We are talking about an Israeli commitment to release prisoners detained before Oslo,” he said. “From other considerations, not just security current security concerns. As long as the process continues, we are committed to it, so I think we will release the prisoners next time.”