Agenda of death

The increase in Palestinian attacks threatens the stability of Netanyahu’s popularity and government, in part because Israelis still harbor hopes that negotiations might work.

November 12, 2014 21:55
3 minute read.
Terror attack in Jerusalem

Scene of terror attack in Jerusalem, Nov 5.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The method of murder may have changed, but the result is the same. Knife-wielding attackers and drivers who use their vehicles as weapons have replaced suicide bombers.

On Monday, Nur al-Din Abu Hashiya, an 18-year-old Palestinian from Nablus who entered Israel illegally, stabbed to death Almog Shiloni, 20, near Tel Aviv’s Hagana train station. Shiloni, a soldier, sustained stab wounds to the torso and subsequently died.

On the same day, a few hours later, Dalya Lemkus, 26, from Tekoa, was murdered at a bus stop outside Alon Shvut.

Her killer was Maher Hamdi Hashalmon, 30, a member of Islamic Jihad. Hashalmon first tried to run over Lemkus with his minivan. Then he got out and stabbed her repeatedly, and wounded two other people.

Shiloni and Lemkus were – respectively – the fifth and sixth Israelis Muslim terrorists from the West Bank and east Jerusalem murdered in the past month. In all of 2012 and 2013, terrorists from the West Bank and east Jerusalem murdered five Israelis. There is a sharp uptick in murderous violence. What is its goal? Irrespective of whether this is the terrorists’ goal, the attacks seem not to have affected the belief of a majority of Israelis that renewing diplomatic contacts with the Palestinian Authority is the best way to stem the resurgence of Palestinian violence.

In their October Peace Index poll published on Tuesday, the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University questioned a representative sample of the Israeli population.

Some 57.2 percent of the general public said renewing peace talks was the right way to prevent terrorist attacks – 52.5% among Jews and 81.2% among Arabs.

Twenty eight and a half percent of the public said Israel should “cease the political contacts for peace” – 33.1% of Jews and 5.7% of Arabs. But a quick look at recent history shows that negotiations are a depressingly inadequate guarantee against Palestinian terrorism. Nearly every time there has been a sign that a two-state solution might materialize, Palestinians have increased their violence in its various forms. They first employed the obscene tactic of suicide bombing when the Rabin-Peres government was in power and when there was much more reason to believe that negotiating might lead to a breakthrough.

Netanyahu owes his first election as prime minister in 1996 to that violence.

The present increase in Palestinian attacks threatens the stability of Netanyahu’s popularity and government, in part because Israelis still harbor hopes that negotiations might work. But that is more about the character of Israelis, who want to believe that in the end Palestinians are rational interlocutors who can be reasoned with.

In any event, Palestinian violence has never succeeded in breaking Israelis’ spirit. If anything, the waves of suicide bombings and the second intifada proved the futility of attempts by groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah to use terrorism to cow Israelis into caving in to Palestinian demands. Not only did terrorism result in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Israelis, it wreaked tragedy on the Palestinian people. Violence did not improve their situation, it deepened their poverty and suffering and it made a two-state solution all the less likely.

The violence is not driven by an attempt to improve the lives of Palestinians. The desire to revenge the deaths of Gazans killed in this summer’s Operation Protective Edge and the police’s killing of Kheir a-Din Hamdan in Kafr Kana last Friday is part of the equation. But the underlying source of the terrorism – which also precipitated this summer’s Gaza operation – is a violently reactionary Islamic triumphalism that says non-Muslims – particularly Zionists – are vile interlopers in a consecrated land.

This applies to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount – the center of the unrest – as well as to Tel Aviv, as Aloni’s brutal murder demonstrates. The Palestinian offensive should not be seen in isolation from Islamic State’s bloody jihad, as Ynet’s Ron Ben-Yishai observed.

Suicide bombings, the second intifada and the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections soured Israelis on the prospects of negotiating peaceful cooperation with their Palestinian neighbors.

The present wave of attacks is reinforcing this pessimism.

Israelis want to believe in dialogue, but the Palestinian religious fanatics getting behind the wheel or grabbing hold of a knife have a different agenda altogether.

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