Analysis: September and the settler factor

IDF prepares for violent/non-violent Palestinian uprising, settler instigation, "price tag" attacks.

Soldiers at Itamar settlement 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Soldiers at Itamar settlement 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Two years ago, when OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi took up his current post and heard about the Fayyad plan for statehood he immediately got to work.
Mizrachi took the plan seriously and understood that when the Palestinians declared that they would be ready for a state in the summer of 2011, they also planned to act on it.
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For that reason, Mizrachi, one of the most veteran members of the General Staff, has the book “The Wisdom of Crowds,” written by New Yorker staffer James Surowiecki and published in 2004, on his desk these days.
The book analyzes the way crowds think, act and arrive at decisions. As the commanding officer in charge of the West Bank facing a possible Palestinian popular uprising, the book could come in handy for Mizrachi.
There is no question that the IDF has invested a great amount of resources and time into preparing for almost every possible scenario that could emerge from the upcoming marches expected to gain speed in the coming weeks.
Almost all of the IDF’s regular units have undergone special riot control training and in the West Bank, every regional brigade has received special equipment like the “Skunk” and the “Scream.” Reservists have received special training and emergency call-up orders have been prepared, enabling the enlistment of a significant number of battalions if needed, in less than 12 hours.
But with all of this preparation, there are still some scenarios that are completely out of Mizrachi and the IDF’s control.
One of them is the socalled “settler factor.”
In general, the IDF’s assessment is that the Palestinians are not currently interested in launching a violent uprising – or an intifada – like they did following the Camp David talks in 2000. PA security forces are already now working to contain the demonstrations and to prevent a violent escalation.
But this is in the short term.
In the long-term there are a number of unknowns. First, is what will happen weeks or even months from now when the Palestinian people realize that President Mahmoud Abbas – who had promised them a state – did not get one at the United Nations? Will they then hit the streets and violently protest or will they remain restrained? Another unknown is what will happen if tomorrow or next week or even in a month, a settler opens fire and kills a Palestinian or another “pricetag attack” aimed at burning down a mosque burns down a home with people sleeping inside? This almost happened a few months ago when a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a home in the West Bank village of Hawara where three children were sleeping inside. Their mother grabbed them and they escaped the flames.
These are the scenarios that are most concerning for the IDF and the Israeli government since if something like this happens, the intelligence assessments immediately change and the Palestinians will then, officers believe, take violently to the streets.
While the PA security forces may still try to stop them, they will not do so with force and will instead step aside and leave the problem to Israel.
Mizrachi and his officers are aware of this problem and are working hard on multiple levels – intelligence and operations – to prevent settlers from even making contact with Palestinians.
This is not an easy task but it is daunting considering the possible consequences.

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