I have often written about the Iranian aspiration to systematically infiltrate several arenas surrounding Israel, as well as Israel itself, from within. Tehran’s appetite is far from satiated following its destruction of Lebanon and Syria, via the creation and maintenance of proxies on their territories, for instance in the form of Hezbollah. Nor is it satisfied with its iron grip of the Gaza strip, which it had attained via the backing of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas there.
Quite the contrary.
It is racing forward and working very hard at maintaining the Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the West Bank too. That could clearly be seen following the entrance of the Israeli Defense Forces into Jenin recently. The terrorist acts which had been carried out by Palestinians from Jenin in the past year have all been the fruit of the Islamic Jihad, which draws its inspiration, and gets its training and funding from Iran.
The latter adeptly recruits the Palestinian youth, disenchanted by a complete lack of employment prospects and a dim depressing view of a corrupt and decaying Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, which largely forwards its own interests and that of its kin. Iran encourages these disillusioned youngsters to fight two wars – one against the Palestinian Authority and the second – against Israel.
In fact, in the absence of a strong and stable leadership in the West Bank, an entire generation of Palestinians is being educated indirectly by the Ayatollah regime, under the so-called pretext of “freeing the Palestinian people.” The systematic weakening of the Palestinian Authority (despite it being far from a model for emulation) in recent years by Israeli governments, particularly under the leadership of current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in fact helped the accomplishment of the Iranian objective to take over the West Bank too, in addition to Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria.
Yet that, too, is not enough. Iran has extended its outreach to Jordan, where it recently “discovered” religious Shi’ite sites which explains Tehran’s heightened presence in the Kingdom. Jordan, unfortunately, is too weak to stand up to this troubling presence, as Egypt did time and time again after Iranian attempts to spy within its territory had been foiled by the Egyptian security forces.
How does Iran seek to exploit violence and crime in the Arab Israeli sector?
Yet what is most worrying, is the constant Iranian attempt to influence certain factors within the Arab Israeli sector, much to the chagrin of Sunni sheikhs, who hold onto Israeli citizenship and whose congregants are 100% Sunni.
The huge rise in crime and the violence in the Arab Israeli sector, in the past decade and a half, creates exactly the lack of stability and law enforcement which serve the Iranian cause to try and infiltrate and gain access and power amid the local population. This does, indeed, sound a little like science fiction, yet in practice, the chaos which characterizes the Israeli Arab arena in recent years is exactly the kind of scenario which strengthens the ability of external stakeholders with underlying motives to negatively affect internal Israeli society as a whole. That is, via the use of criminals, who have access to illegal weapons.
THE ISRAELI ARAB sector has long experienced neglect by Israeli governments in pursuing solutions to issues such as infrastructure, such as infrastructure; proper urban planning; informal education; and supervision over the official educational institutions and content. Another problem is the lack of proper regulation concerning the Arab local governments, in which there is much corruption and a lack of capacity (despite generous funding which was wrongly invested and not properly regulated). Cumulatively, this provided a fruitful and ripe foundation in which crime and violence have risen, thus enabling criminals, alarmingly, to conquer every corner of Arab Israeli society.
The latter, who are driven by a quest for money, rather than by ideology, are an easy target for recruitment by external parties – who have a keen interest in influencing the Israeli internal arena – such as Iran.
Examples are rife: every year, during the month of Ramadan, the Iranian-backed Hamas movement encourages Palestinian youths from east Jerusalem to combat “the occupation forces” around al-Aqsa Mosque, by entering the mosque with rocks and cold weapons and attacking Israeli border police from within.
Similarly, Iran’s proxies in the region attempted to recruit and encourage Israeli Arabs in the mixed cities in Israel, to take arms and fight against their Jewish neighbors during the unprecedented riots of May 2021. Such attempts were only partially successful, yet managed to create chaos and havoc, and caught the Israeli security establishment, and particularly the police force, unawares.
The Israeli police force is too small to face the many challenges which characterize current Israeli society: small, medium, and large businesses throughout the country suffer profusely from extortion. Huge demonstrations have been taking place throughout the country in the past six months. Israeli citizens in southern Israel have been suffering from a lack of law enforcement for years and alongside all this, farmers throughout the country are suffering greatly from criminal terrorism or what is termed “agricultural terror.”
Their land is burned on a regular basis if they do not agree to pay “protection” to criminals, and insurance companies are no longer willing to insure their properties, given the frequency of these events. Some of those farmers, out of pure despair, given this reality, even voted for the current National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose ideology is worlds away from theirs, simply because he promised the moon during the last election campaign regarding internal security and law enforcement.
A bill (on which I had worked religiously during my tenure in the Knesset) regarding penalizing extortion crimes has recently become a law, passed by Ben-Gvir’s party, yet the road to internal security and law enforcement is still very long. “Official Israel” is too busy with internal politics to do what is truly needed on the ground.
Yet this is not just another challenge in a long list of important issues which this current government is neglecting because of its singular obsession with the judicial reform, but one which is a significant cornerstone of Israel’s national resilience.
Not only are the internal divisions a gift for Israel’s enemies, but the combination of these internal rifts, together with the aforementioned “magnificent” criminal empire, have unfortunately leveraged the advantage to Israel’s enemies and their potential misuse of the situation.
The writer is the founder and CEO of Ruth-Strategic Consulting, a former MK for the National Unity Party, a former deputy ambassador to Cairo, and a past adviser to president Shimon Peres.