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 wave Hamas flags as they celebrate the prisoner swap deal reached between Israel and Hamas in East Jerusalem. Oct 18, 2011.(Kobi Gideon / Flash90)
The data available to Israel’s security establishment regarding the thwarting of so-called Palestinian “lone wolf attacks” is telling.
In 2017 alone, more than 1,300 such attacks — those without the support or operational backing of any terror group — were prevented. This marked a significant decline as compared to 2016, when more than 2,200 lone-wolf attacks were foiled.
But this year’s figures already show a persistent trend, with some 200 lone wolf attacks attempted in the past two months alone.
And while the data suggests the motivation among young Palestinians to carry out such attacks is on the decline, Friday’s attack demonstrated that it is still very much present, and liable to be lethal.
Israeli soldiers inspect a car at the scene where two Israeli soldiers were killed and another two were injured in a car-ramming terror attack near Mevo Dotan, in the West Bank, March 16, 2018. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)
Qabha, who was released from Israeli prison just under a year ago, carried out the attack on the 100-day anniversary of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a day in which several Palestinian terror organizations — led by Hamas — sought to exact a price in blood.
Unfortunately, the coming months have no shortage of such anniversaries, and the motivation among Palestinians to carry out terror attacks will only increase.
At the end of this month, huge protests are being planned for “Land Day” under the theme of “processions of the great return,” which will likely feature Palestinians storming the West Bank security barrier as well as Israel’s border with Gaza.
These protests will be followed by similar events to commemorate Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day — how Palestinians refer to Israel’s Independence Day — which falls around the same time as the holy month of Ramadan this year.
On top of all of these “festive” occasions, there are additional conditions in place that will surely increase motivation for attacks on the Palestinian side, especially among its youth: the lack of a diplomatic horizon, the dearth of hope, the leadership crisis on the Palestinian side, Israeli settlement construction, and the failure of the internal Palestinian reconciliation process.
Each of these conditions have been seen to amplify Palestinian despair.
Many times, however, this despair leads — as we have seen in recent years — to apathy. Accordingly, most West Bank Palestinians have largely remained in their homes, even during the most tense commemoration days.
On the other hand, this despair also motivates quite a few young Palestinians to want to carry out terror attacks: car-rammings, stabbings, shootings. And while obtaining the improvised weapons used in these attacks is not as easy as it used to be, there are still enough weapons in the West Bank to carry out shootings, without any terrorist organizational backing.
Hamas attempts to step up attacks
Along with these lone wolf attacks, one must add the organized effort — primarily from Hamas — to ignite the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority has maintained its security coordination with Israel and has continued to prevent a considerable amount of attacks.
PA security forces have taken a number of steps in recent years to prevent harm to Israelis, while simultaneously targeting sources of funding from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, head of the terror cell who shot dead Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the West Bank on January 9 (Twitter)
However, Hamas, along with other terror groups, has continued in their efforts to carry out more organized, “classic” terror attacks.
For this purpose, Hamas has been operating from two bridgeheads.
One from Gaza, where the ironically labeled “West Bank Headquarters” operates the group’s terror infrastructure east of the Green Line. The branch is made up largely of former security prisoners who were deported to Gaza after being freed in the swap for captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.
Ahmed Jarrar, the terrorist who murdered Rabbi Raziel Shevach near the Havat Gilad outpost in the northern West Bank in January, received financial assistance from this very headquarters.
The second branch, the “West Bank Office,” operates with an identical goal and is similarly run by former security prisoners released in the Shalit exchange. However, these past convicts were deported abroad and operate from capitals such as Istanbul.
Together, the two branches and the looming anniversaries create an unstable environment for the next few months in our region, to say the least.