A host of questions remain about the deadly terrorist attack on Sunday in Jerusalem.
But most of the answers are under a gag order issued by the court at the request of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the police.
So it will take some time before we know if this was another “lone wolf” attacker, such as we have seen so many times since the current wave of terrorism began a year ago. How did he manage to obtain a rifle, and was he a member of Hamas, which together with Islamic Jihad, took credit for the attack? The things we already know – the type of weapon, his age, and his past activities – indicate that this wasn’t a typical lone wolf incident.
All the pieces of information we have on the assailant – his record of involvement in provocations regarding the Temple Mount, incitement, friction with security forces, and serving a year in prison – suggest a police failure to prevent the attack.
On the other hand, the Shin Bet and police have a full plate. They can’t follow and monitor every individual and take legal action against all of them, especially residents of east Jerusalem, who have the same rights of movement as Israeli citizens.
Nevertheless, when answers are finally given, the situation will not change dramatically. So far, 43 Israelis and 240 Palestinians have been killed in the past year, and the current wave of terrorism is not going to go anywhere. It first came in waves and will continue in waves. Weapons such as knives or cars, and the young perpetrators who use them, can be easily replaced, and allow the terrorism to continue.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad will continue to try to organize, provoke and incite West Bank Palestinians to kill Israeli Jews. Individuals or groups – whenever they are able to put their hands on more sophisticated weapons – will prefer those over knives or homemade equipment.
Despite nightly efforts by security forces to expose and dismantle weapons caches and manufacturing workshops, the West Bank remains swamped with tens of thousands of homemade weapons, among other, more standard devices.
The security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is ongoing. This is in the mutual interest of both sides. But that may well be eroded, bearing in mind the intensified, poisonous atmosphere, the lack of diplomatic progress, the expansion of the settlements and the weakening of the Palestinian Authority president.
But above all, Sunday’s attack clearly shows the explosive potential of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. In recent months it seemed that, as a generator of terrorist attacks, those issues had weakened.
But that is a false impression.
They remain highly inflammatory topics, and any minor incident, particularly in this month of the High Holy Days and Jewish pilgrimage to Jerusalem, can ignite the flames.
Even if this month passes in relative calm, Israelis and Palestinians will continue to live with endless, subdued violence, on a collision course with the powers of destruction.