Israel's battle over terror in Judea and Samaria is a priority - opinion

Beyond the priority of intensive Israeli military and security forces operations in Judea and Samaria, the increasing encroachment into territory in Area C must be stopped.

 RONEN BAR, head of the Shin Bet, speaks at Reichman University’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, on Sunday.  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
RONEN BAR, head of the Shin Bet, speaks at Reichman University’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, on Sunday.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Terror is on the rise in Judea and Samaria, and as I have written about in the past, it cannot simply be analyzed in narrow terms as part of the ebb and flow of a local conflict. The Israel General Security Service (GSS), Shin Bet, head Ronen Bar said as much in his speech at the beginning of the week to participants at Reichman University’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) annual conference.

While Bar’s statements on the domestic socio-political climate made bigger headlines, the GSS director’s clear denunciation of the Iranian regime as not only the fundamental problem in the entire Middle East, but as playing no small part in the recent instability in Judea and Samaria, is critically important to clarify the strategic threats facing Israel.

Iran has of course for decades given support and direction to terror groups in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, not least to Yasser Arafat himself, even before his presence in Ramallah. Now, however, and especially after Operation Guardian of the Walls and the scenes of widespread violence and mayhem amongst Israel’s own Arab citizenry, Iran has an appetite for integrating, not only Jihadist groups in Gaza, but forces hostile to Israel everywhere west of the Jordan River into their strategic war plans.

In a number of potential scenarios, most of all in an open war between Iran and Israel, the regime in Tehran would want an armed insurrection and hyper-intifada waged throughout Israel from the Galilee to Judea, the Negev to Jaffa. Together with a war front on Israel’s northern borders – from the Mediterranean Sea to the southern tip of the Golan Heights – as well as air, sea and land-based attacks from beyond Israel’s immediate borders; Iranian military planners envision overwhelming Israel’s defenses, inflicting maximum damage on the civilian population and IDF alike, and in their ideal scenario, the conquest and occupation of parts of Israeli territory.

 IDF operating in the West Bank to arrest terror suspects, August 11, 2022.  (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) IDF operating in the West Bank to arrest terror suspects, August 11, 2022. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

As in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, total war against Israel and from everywhere, within and without. If allowed to arm itself with nuclear weapons Iran’s strategy and plans would then be escalated to the goal of the complete and utter destruction of Israel.

The significant increase in attempts to smuggle light arms from Lebanon and Jordan into Israel, which Israeli authorities have attributed to Hezbollah and Iran exposes, along with other developments, the multi-faceted efforts undertaken by Tehran to build up a domestic war front from within Israel’s borders. As to these efforts, in his ICT speech GSS Director Bar addressed the fact that if the current so-called nuclear deal with Iran is actually signed, one could only imagine the terror and chaos that would be developed and unleashed by an Iran infused with tens of billions of dollars.

As for Judea and Samaria, Bar spoke of Mahmoud Abbas’s lack of legitimacy and control in the areas ostensibly under his authority. He also pointed out the fractioned nature of the very faction Abbas is the leader of, Fatah. These realities only compound the complete dysfunction of Abbas and his cronies’ autocratic rule from Ramallah, as well as to the basic failure of the entire entity known as the Palestinian Authority. Dysfunctionality and failure echo other artificial regimes that have been thrown into chaos from across the region, be they in Libya, Iraq, Yemen or others.

Violence and instability rises as Abbas loses control over the West Bank

DESPOTIC RULE, systemic corruption and innate societal factionalism and clannism have boiled over in areas controlled by Abbas in recent years, as in many parts of the Arab world. Bar’s ICT lecture underscored the fact that the lack of even basic governance and the absence of any interest in reforms have created a situation where Abbas’s security forces are more and more ineffective. As a result, Israel’s security forces and military have had to intensify their operations in places like Jenin to root out terrorist cells and operations.

This rise in operational activity now includes approval for the use of armed drones in Judea and Samaria. Intra-Arab violence – open gang, clan and factional fighting in Judea and Samaria – has been festering for months upon months. In the case of Hebron, Abbas’s forces have had almost no control over running firefights and pitched street battles. This also affects the general security situation throughout the area.

The circumstances and situational realities on the ground in Judea and Samaria make it clearer and clearer that no matter how much the United States and Europe, or Israel for that matter, would prop up Abbas, his successor or his successor’s successor, eventually, the house of cards would fall. It has also been understood for some time that if free and open elections were held in Arab-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, the terror group Hamas would come out victorious (exactly as happened in Gaza the one time such elections were held and never again since). The result of such a scenario would be yet again an Islamist terror entity dominated by Iran.

As such, beyond the priority of maintaining and when necessary, expanding, intensive Israeli military and security forces operations in Judea and Samaria, the increasing encroachment into territory in Area C must be halted. Illegal Arab construction of all sorts, attempts at pirate agriculture, vandalism, siphoning of natural resources, antiquities looting and destruction, and general violence are in the service of attempts to gain a foothold on the territory.

This, in turn, is followed by false claims made about those areas and with the support of the authorities in Ramallah, they are taken to the international community especially to western Europe for support and material succor. This organized encroachment provides a potential future geographic area for Islamist terror groups and by extension Iran to set up shop. That is not just a tactical threat but an unacceptable strategic one.

Today, perhaps more than ever, Western European countries need Israel. Natural gas, weaponry, intelligence cooperation and technology from Israel are top priorities for almost all of them. This provides the perfect opportunity to force a change in their positions and policies as pertaining to their support and succor for Palestinian Authority maneuverings in Judea and Samaria, if not of their broader policies vis-a-vis Judea and Samaria.

As for Israel’s position on what Iran can expect if it continues to try to attack Israelis or our diaspora at home and abroad, the head of the Mossad, David Barnea, made it abundantly clear in his lecture at ICT: direct action against Iran on Iranian soil. That will certainly be the case, as well, if Iran continues to try to attain nuclear weapons capability.

The writer is an Israeli hi-tech entrepreneur and a member of the Israel Leadership Forum. He is involved with various Israeli advocacy causes including working with Christian Zionist and pro-Israel Noahide groups.