Although the Israeli government will not admit it, Israel is now experiencing a third Intifada (uprising). The first started in 1987; the second in 2000; and the current one a few months ago, on October 2015.
Some numbers (October 2015 through mid February 2016, from the Internal Security Agency):
- More than 1,350 terrorist attacks, resulting in more than 30 dead and more than 350 injured.
- The vast majority of the attacks occurred in the West bank (about 75%) and Jerusalem (16%). Only 10% of the attacks took place inside the “Green Line”.
- Almost all the terrorists (80%) came from the West Bank. Only 4% came from within the “Green Line”.
- About half of the terrorists were under 20 (under 16: 10%; 16-20: 37%).
Although there has been a decline in the number of attacks monthly (from over 600 in October down to around 300 in January), the attacks have been happening almost on a daily basis. News items about attacks, even when there are dead among the victims, rarely stay up for more than a few hours on the news websites. They have become a sort of “new normal”, which is further proof that this is an ongoing uprising and not a sporadic outburst of terror.
The current Intifada is different from the previous ones in several aspects. Most of the attacks are made with knives and not with guns or explosives. Furthermore, as noted above, many of the attackers are under 20 years old, much younger than the average age of terrorists in previous uprisings (mid 20s). Almost all of them come from the West Bank, and since they have difficulty getting to Israel, they attack settlers and soldiers there (or in Jerusalem) and not in Israel’s big cities as in the past. There is also a general consensus that many of the attackers are “freelancers”, in the sense that they were not sent by organized terror cells, but rather acted of their own free will (another indicator of a popular uprising). It is of course much harder to counter such terrorism, as the army and the security services are unable to gather intelligence at the source. This is why most attacks are foiled during the attack itself, and not in the preparation stages, as there is no organized preparation.
This state of affairs highlights the unsustainable continuation of the occupation of the West Bank. The lack of a border between the majority of the Palestinians and Israel is the root cause of Israel’s inability to fight this type of terrorism. As long as Israel insists on allowing millions of Palestinians to live besides Israelis, there will be no end to this violence. Of course there is no solution that will bring a 100% end to violence, and it is impossible for Israel to disengage itself completely from all Palestinians. But disengaging from 80% of Palestinians living between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river is possible, and that means reducing the problem by 80%.
The Israeli government is a victim of its own ideology. It lacks the moral fortitude to admit that the dream of “Greater Israel” has turned into a nightmare. It lacks the moral fortitude to say to about a quarter of Jewish settlers in the West Bank that they need to relocate in order to ensure the safety of millions of their fellow Israelis. This lack of moral fortitude endangers not only endangers the lives of Israelis daily, but risks hastening a catastrophe much bigger than the current Intifada.
It is time to disengage and keep most Palestinians away from Israelis. It is time to revive the elections slogan of old “we are here, they are there”.