Israel should continue to let Palestinians with work permits cross the Green Line even after one of them perpetrated Tuesday morning’s Har Adar terrorist attack, a former Prime Minister’s Office Counter-Terror chief told a press briefing on Tuesday.Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel told a media conference call organized by the Israel Project, “I would like to believe that we would not change policy. It is better for us that... the Palestinians have jobs and bring some money back home. It should be stronger than one event.” Nuriel qualified this statement saying that “probably for the short term they [the government] might take some [additional security] measures,” but he still expressed hope that “for the long run they would not change the policy.”Earlier on Tuesday, a 37-year-old with a work permit and a father of four from the Palestinian village of Beit Surik shot and killed two security officers and a border policeman at a security fence near Har Adar, outside Jerusalem.According to the Border Police, the Palestinian assailant approached the town’s rear gate posing as a laborer. When the officers manning the gate grew suspicious of him because of his unusual clothing, he pulled out his weapon and opened fire.
After an exchange of gunfire, the assailant was shot dead, but not before fatally injuring three people and severely wounding one more.The incident was unusual as until now attacks during the last two years’ wave of terrorism were perpetrated by Palestinians without work permits or by Israeli Arabs.Until now, security forces and politicians have repeated the mantra that continuing to allow thousands of Palestinians to work in Israel was in Israel’s interest to maintain a class of Palestinian moderates, and careful security checks meant Palestinians with permits had not been involved in terrorism.Nuriel was pushing back on a question about whether the government might revisit the policy in light of the Har Adar attacker’s status.The former counterterrorism chief added that the incident, even with its high cost, showed that the system of security fences and check points was working. He said it had prevented far more casualties by blocking a scenario where the terrorist could have attacked a large group of unarmed civilians.He added that the main security response needed should not come from policy-makers.Rather, he said it should be from commanders in the field, to keep their border guards alert and change their routines so that they would remain on their toes despite a job that, with its hundreds of checks per day at crossings, lends itself to complacency and letting one’s guard down.Nitzan also addressed whether the Har Adar attack would lead to further attacks or affect the ongoing US-led peace negotiations.He said additional attacks were likely to follow as in the past. “After one incident, someone else always says, ‘If he can do it, so can I.’ Also, the Jewish holidays are always an... excuse [for Arabs] to conduct terrorist attacks – mainly around Jerusalem.”Rejecting the idea that the attack was timed for the visit of US envoy Jason Greenblatt, he said that lone wolves are not so sophisticated in timing their attacks to diplomatic events.Rather, he said the attack should be viewed within the prism of an increase in spontaneous lone wolf attacks since fall 2015.Nitzan added that he expected increased pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the attack and to cut off “martyrs” payments” to families of terrorists and to terrorists in Israeli prisons.But at the same time, he said he hoped Greenblatt could “bridge the gap between the sides,” as there needs to be a diplomatic “solution to prevent the next terrorist event.”
Scene of terror attack in Har Adar (credit: MDA)