Israeli security forces search the scene where a Palestinain shooting attack on Israeli policemen took place just outside Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The recent drop in terrorism cited by the defense establishment and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a welcome development, but one that could prove fleeting in light of the core problems that continue to smolder beneath the surface.
Terrorist actions can be divided into two categories.
The first, organized terrorism, is orchestrated by jihadist organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Organized terrorism plots have been foiled by the security and intelligence services in a manner that inspires awe. Night after night, security personnel disrupt emerging plots in the West Bank, guided by precision intelligence provided by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
These operations have saved many lives, preventing mass casualty suicide bombings, shootings and kidnappings.
The second type of terrorism – lone wolf attacks carried out by individuals or small groups without the aid of any larger organization – have been the dominant form of hostile activity over the past seven months.
This type of violence is nearly impossible to preempt due to the lack of warning signals. Nevertheless, the month of March saw a sharp decrease in such attacks, right across the West Bank, Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. The drop has continued in April.
Action taken by Israel against sources of Palestinian incitement have contributed to the decrease. Additionally, the policy set by the defense establishment of distinguishing between ordinary Palestinians and attackers, and not disrupting the Palestinian fabric of life, has helped. The fact that the IDF has maintained a high state of readiness, and responded swiftly to attacks, has helped convince many Palestinians that such operations are futile.
Simultaneously, Israel’s effort to provide more Palestinians with work permits in Israel has helped keep the number of attacks down.
Yet the positive trend is fragile, and could be turned on its head through a single violent and unpredictable incident, at any time.
In any case, many young Palestinians continue to harbor a set of personal and collective grievances, some of which are as much against the Palestinian Authority as they are against Israel.
It may not take much to convert those grievances into renewed violence. The Palestinian population has many young, university educated people, reliant on social media that remains filled with incitement to hate and violence, who are frustrated by their lack of prospects.
That poisonous mix means that rage continues to fester beneath the surface, and that, in the absence of further steps to bolster the current relative calm, there are many potential triggers that could reawaken that anger.