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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, September 15, 2010 (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
So many explanations have been advanced for the rising wave of terrorism striking Jerusalem: Mahmoud Abbas’s incitement, the “inspiration” of the Islamic State, Hamas’s activities, Palestinian social media…
And so many suggestions have been raised as ostensible panaceas for stopping it: Demolition of terrorists’ homes (tried in the past and found to be ineffectual in preventing or deterring attacks), placing barriers at the entrance to East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods (and what happened to eternally united Jerusalem?), the deportation or exile of terrorists’ families….
Only one fundamental idea is not discussed, apparently because it is just too abrasive to the ear in the wake of a terror attack like that of Tuesday: restarting the peace process. Yes, negotiating with the Palestinians.
Let’s put this delicately: All the other options discussed and/or implemented in recent weeks have utterly failed to stop the escalation. And the cessation of the talks, the removal of any prospect of diplomatic progress, and the rejection of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a peace partner, have plainly been ineffective in preventing terrorism emanating from East Jerusalem.
By contrast, security cooperation with Abbas and the PA in the West Bank has managed to prevent the fire that is raging in the capital from spreading to the West Bank. And quite surprisingly, the top brass of Israel’s security establishment has explicitly confirmed this.
While the IDF in general, and Chief of Staff Benny Gantz in particular, strive at all costs not to express opinions on the dawning new intifada and how to stop it, so as not to be accused of taking sides against the current political leadership, behind closed doors there is a consensus in the intelligence community, including the army, that Abbas is part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Shin Bet intelligence chief Yoram Cohen at the Israel Defense Forces headquarters in Tel Aviv, July 2014 (photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)
One high-ranking member of the intelligence community who has not been afraid to express this sentiment publicly is Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen. Cohen had never been accused of left-wing bias until Tuesday afternoon, when he spoke at the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee and openly contradicted the assertions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and other top ministers. Cohen said explicitly that Abbas does not encourage terrorism — not overtly and not covertly. No mincing of words there.
Netanyahu quickly asserted that there was no contradiction between Cohen’s statements and his own emphatic and repeated assertions that Abbas is inciting terrorism, but there was actually no other way to interpret Cohen’s words.
And still Israel’s political leaders don’t want to listen. No matter how many warnings the Shin Bet and Military Intelligence issue on the dangers of the situation spiraling out of control in the absence of a diplomatic horizon, and no matter how much detail they provide of Abbas’s efforts to prevent terror in the West Bank, our political leaders do not let the facts confuse them.
“This conflict cannot be solved,” they explain to us. “It can only be managed.”
Well, maybe it is time for the decision-makers to be more honest with the Israeli public, to explain that gruesome terror attacks like the one in the Har Nof synagogue on Tuesday are the price we all have to pay for “managing the conflict” and avoiding even the attempt to solve it.
That said, how do you hold talks with Abbas when the Palestinian media is indeed teeming with incitement? The reality, as hard as it is to accept, is that there is no other choice. All other means proposed by Israel’s decision-makers will, at best, make the public comfortable — like analgesics for the terminally ill — but they will not solve the problem.
This still image taken from an undated video published on the Internet by Islamic State terrorists on November 16, 2014, purports to show IS marching Syrian soldiers before beheading them. (photo credit: AP)
Granted, Abbas does not stop the incitement against Israel in his own media. But the most harmful incitement is not coming from Palestinian Authority-controlled television and radio.
It is out there, incessantly, on social networks — in the form of clips and images of beheadings by the Islamic State. It is on Hamas media — which broadcasts calls 24/7 to go out and commit terror attacks. It’s even on al-Jazeera. And this inciteful content makes full use of all the right-wing Israeli politicians who are promoting the demand for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount for their own narrow, short-sighted political gain.
So in these final moments before the Third Intifada erupts in full force — it already has its name, at least in Hamas media: “Intifada al-Aqsa” — maybe somebody in Israel’s political leadership might want to reconsider the idea of negotiating with Abbas. Otherwise, Tuesday’s horrific attack in Har Nof will signal the beginning of a far more deadly wave of violence.