Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Recent intelligence appraisals suggesting a possible escalation of violence in April seem to have a firm footing in reality following Wednesday's terror attack against two soldiers in the West Bank. Last month the IDF arrested more than 200 people suspected of violent terror activity and the anger in the Palestinian Authority over Israel's freezing of tax transfers to the West Bank government have served to add fuel to the fire.
Last month it was reported that the security establishment was preparing for a possible escalation at the beginning of April. The IDF's preparations for a possible uptick in violence reached a climax with a surprise General Staff drill commanded by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot.
One of the causes of the escalation is the Palestinians' anger at Israel, who they claim declared publicly that they would unfreeze the tax transfers, but in reality did not transfer them the full amount. The economic situation in the Palestinian Authority is causing senior officials in the defense establishment to lose sleep. They have warned that the economic pressure may serve to inflame the territory. The fact that a terror attack such as the one carried out Wednesday took place while security forces were in a state of high alert for the Passover holiday shows how determined the Palestinian street is to upset the status quo.
The belief within the security establishment is that, as relations with the Palestinian Authority get worse, the security and stability in the area is further undermined. One of the central reasons behind this estimation is the action taken by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the international arena with his rhetoric directed toward Israel. The IDF brass sees this as a complicated challenge that will undoubtedly influence the reality on the ground. After a period in which the Palestinian Authority thwarted multiple attempts to escalate the situation in the West Bank and the IDF reported a decrease in riots and attempted terror attacks, it seems in recent days the relative quiet has been disturbed.
In the last month, the IDF has carried out a number of arrest raids against operatives behind "localized terror" initiatives that took part in riots against security forces and civilians. With the exception of the night in which security forces searched for the Israeli who allegedly staged his own kidnapping
, Niv Asraf, IDF forces have arrested dozens of suspects every night. Last month, more than 200 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank.
The defense establishment fears that even a small event can lead to a violent escalation given that there is a desire in the West Bank to spark a conflict with Israel. The fear the the Palestinian Authority could collapse still exists because of the economic hardship and because of the desire in the Palestinian street for Abbas to push forward diplomatic steps against Israel internationally.