Trump's decision on Jerusalem has not led to an increase in violence

Were President Trump’s decision so inflammatory, why the need for a new campaign theme to mobilize Palestinians to violence?

April 21, 2018 20:50
3 minute read.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands behind as U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the proclamatio

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stands behind as U.S. President Donald Trump holds up the proclamation he signed that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move its embassy there, during an address from the White House in Washington, U.S., December 6, 2017. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

A video news item on Ynet, a former Israeli intelligence officer in an article disseminated by a reputable Israeli think tank, repeat the claim made by many of Israel’s detractors on Iranian and Arab media sites that US President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem has increased violence and instability in the area.

Increasing violence was indeed anticipated by officials in the European community and diplomats of respective member states who opposed the decision, as well as United Nations officials.

Four months after the decision was taken, one can easily test the assertion and expose it as a myth.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, probably the most reputable source of data on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has been for many years tabulating significant Palestinian terrorist attacks in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A significant attack, the Center notes, “is defined ‘as involving shooting, a vehicular attack, the use of IEDs, or a combination of the above.’” This means that “stones and [fire bombs] thrown by Palestinians are not included.”

The chart the center produced for violent attacks in the past year is easily worth a thousand words. By no stretch of imagination can the data be interpreted to support the assertion that President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy has increased terrorist attacks.

Looking at what happened in the four months since President Trump’s decision, made at the beginning of December 2017, the pattern is remarkably similar to the four months preceding the decision. There were 13 attacks in the period before the decision (from August to early December) compared to 14 attacks from December 2017 to early April since then.

The number of terrorist attacks in both four-month periods paled before the period covering April through July, in which there were 38 attacks, considerably more than the two periods since then together (27 compared to 38 attacks).

Those summer months included the most serious attack during the entire period – the killing of two Israeli policemen near Damascus Gate by three Palestinian gunmen from Umm el-Fahm, who began their attack from the Temple Mount and were subsequently killed.

To recall, the incident led to an Israeli decision to set up detectors on the Temple Mount, which elicited considerable Palestinian demonstrations over a period of month in July-August until the decision was rescinded.

But perhaps data for serious terrorist attacks are not the appropriate measure to assess instability? This is indeed true.

The number of arrests Israel makes is usually a good indicator of levels of other forms of violence and protest. The problem is that Palestinian organizations such Prisoners Behind Bars and Hamas publish data for Palestinians arrested only on an annual basis.

Yet Addameer, a Palestinian NGO concerned with the welfare of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, records on a monthly basis the total number of prisoners in Israeli detention centers.

The numbers through March 2018 show no significant increase: they were 6,098 in September 6,198 in October, 6,154 in November, in the three months preceding Trump’s decision and 6,141 in January, 6,119 in February and 6,050 in March 2018 after the president’s decision. If anything, the figures indicate a slight decline in arrests.

Perhaps the best indication that Trump’s decision did not bring Palestinians to confront Israeli security in the streets is Hamas’s “March of Return” campaign that began at the end of March on “Land Day” and is supposed to continue up to May 14, the date of the establishment of the State of Israel, which Palestinians call “the Nakba,” the catastrophe.

Were President Trump’s decision so inflammatory, why the need for a new campaign theme to mobilize Palestinians to violence?

The author is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and a professor of political science and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University.

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