This current intifada, or "present wave of terrorism," as it is known among military circles, has been anticipated by the defense establishment for the past year. There wasn't one army briefing which I attended that didn't include warnings of how Judea and Samaria had become "a powder keg."
A year ago, the IDF began preparing for this level of unrest. One possible scenario that kept defense officials awake at night was an attack by a Jewish extremist similar to what was witnessed in the West Bank village of Duma.
"If they tell me, 'You have an additional battalion of reinforcements,' then I immediately deploy it to Judea and Samaria," a senior military official told me last year.
Just before March of this year, the combination of a stalled peace process and the freezing of tax revenues to the West Bank fueled a very real concern that we were on the verge of a violent Palestinian uprising. After the Duma tragedy, the reassessment changed, with the focal point being the Temple Mount.
The defense establishment was ready for this scenario as well. Nonetheless, there are some very serious questions that have gone unanswered, questions regarding how we still got entangled in this complex set of circumstances.
How does a defense establishment - which has proven itself capable of "threading the needle" and plucking out a wanted terrorist from a Palestinian hospital in an operation worthy of a Hollywood action flick - show itself to be inept at stopping a terrorist cell that had already carried out attacks in the past before gunning down the Henkin couple?
This is certainly a story that is worthy of the label "intelligence failure." The fact is that senior officials in the defense establishment acknowledge that they do not have the tools to deal with the current situation. The cell responsible for the attack near Itamar is a small, ad hoc, and localized entity that was not operating under the auspices of an organization. It was not being funded by anyone, nor was it guided or instructed by any party.
This was simply a group of terrorists, one of whom just happened to be a Hamas member. Experiences shows that the smaller these cells are, the harder it is to find out about them through intelligence channels. The members of this particular cell kept a low profile. Of the three terror attacks they tried to execute, one succeeded.
How does one deal with a situation where two terror attacks take place in the same vicinity within a few days of each other, as happened on Saturday at Lion's Gate in Jerusalem's Old City
. Police were well aware of the potential that tensions could spiral out of control, which is why it beefed up its forces with the most capable officers.
Still, despite the police's efforts, how does a terrorist manage to sneak into the area with a knife hidden in her possession, pick a target, and carry out the attack? Why wasn't there a security check at the entrance to the gate? Why is there no deterrence despite the presence of hundreds of police?
The answer is fear. The prime minister is afraid of an intifada. Benjamin Netanyahu listened carefully to the possible scenarios - and he grew apprehensive. Some of these assessments predicted that mobs of hundreds of Arabs would swarm into the streets, only this time it wouldn't be to vote for Isaac Herzog in the elections. Instead, their main preoccupation would be murdering Jews.
This column was written just before Wednesday's attack in Kiryat Gat
, but Netanyahu knows that a similar event could just as easily take place tomorrow in Acre, or the Triangle, or the Galilee, or Jaffa.
That is why the security forces must act with restraint so that the day-to-day routine is not disrupted. This especially applies not just to Judea and Samaria, but also to Temple Mount. These instructions come straight from the top. The problem is that Israel has for quite some time lost the deterrence factor there. For quite a while, it has not had a grip over events there.
How else does one explain the fact that any bearded Jew in the vicinity of Temple Mount becomes a walking stick of dynamite? All he has to do is close his eyes and recite the "Shema Yisrael" prayer - and we have another intifada. The Palestinians are empowered to run the day-to-day affairs of Temple Mount, including security responsibilities. You don't believe it? Just go on Facebook and watch with disgrace how Wakf officials instruct police to arrest Jews worshiping at the site.
If this is the case, why does the defense establishment claim that terrorism is waning? Those who compare this wave of terrorism to the attacks of the second intifada, when buses and restaurants were being blown to pieces, hundreds were killed, and thousands more maimed, could not bring themselves to acknowledge that what is taking place on the streets of Israel today is an intifada.
When Netanyahu asked defense officials, he was told: "No, this is not an intifada." But reality is lying. An intifada is a popular uprising aimed at a civilian population with the goal of harming innocents. We are one successful terrorist attack away from Operation Defensive Shield 2.
If the Itamar attack would have ended with the murder of not just the Henkin couple but also their four children, you can be certain that we would be in the midst of Defensive Shield 2, just as the Passover bombing of the Park Hotel in 2002 led to Defensive Shield 1.
What to make of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas? Is he an inciter? Or is he working to calm things down? While Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon adamantly claim that the head of the PA is inciting to violence, IDF officers say the opposite is the case
According to senior military officials, Abbas is the man most responsible in the West Bank for curbing terrorism. He has ordered his security forces to thwart attacks and maintain security cooperation with Israel. He is exercising his power to ensure that all is being done to prevent acts of terrorism.
One could be forgiven for thinking that Netanyahu is just waiting for this wave of terrorism to pass. There is no doubt, however, that we are dealing with one of many waves of terrorism. Those that are forthcoming will be much more violent, much more severe.