The current wave of Palestinian terror, which kicked off on Sept. 13, claimed 225 Israeli casualties between then and Nov. 24 – 22 killed and 203 wounded, including 22 in serious condition, 33 with moderate-to-serious injuries and 146 lightly wounded. Another 85 people, many of them children, were traumatized.
In comparison, 72 Palestinian terrorists were killed in the course of attacks and about 750 were wounded.
The conviction is taking root in senior IDF ranks that the current rate of daily stabbings, car attacks, and shooting by individual terrorists can’t go on for much longer without escalating.
This sense is even more pronounced among the brigade and division commanders serving in the West Bank and Palestinian Authority-ruled areas.
These officers are bracing for the low-intensity, albeit nerve-wracking, terror tactics to escalate into a spectacular attack in an Israeli city with dozens of Israelis killed and wounded. The conflict would then tip over into a major Palestinian-Israeli conflagration.
This expectation is grounded in an analysis of the current situation:
The wave of terror is much broader than revealed
1. When Israelis or Palestinians are killed or injured in terrorist attacks, these incidents are invariably reported. But many other Palestinian-Israeli encounters – even shootings – that end without casualties, are not. So on any given day in the last two months, five attacks may be reported, while the public is not informed of another 70-90 incidents
2. Most Israeli military and intelligence officers judge that the counter-terror policies conducted by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon are not working and may indeed be counterproductive, in that they leave the way open for the Palestinians to calibrate the violence.
3. Security measures are clamped down reactively, instead of proactively.
At the end of last week, five Israelis were murdered in one day in attacks by Palestinians from the Hebron district of the southern West Bank. The high number of fatalities brought the prime minister and defense minister rushing over to Gush Etzion to announce the new measures.
The Gush Etzion settlement bloc is located in the Hebron district with 70,000 Jewish residents and two main towns, Efrat and Beitar (See attached map.) They are surrounded by ten times that number of Palestinians in the towns of Hebron, Bethlehem, Halhoul and Yatta and farming villages.
The security measures imposed can’t be enforced
The security measures included roadblocks on side roads from the Palestinian villages to Route 60, the main artery of the district; a series of new local Israeli command centers, each responsible for a small area; and temporary bans on Palestinian access to Jewish locations, which meant that thousands of Palestinians employed at Jewish places of business could not go to work.
4. The IDF commanders on the spot never believed that these measures would work for more than a few days, before the attacks resumed. There is not enough manpower to enforce them, they say, without a massive call-up of reserves, which is not approved by Netanyahu and Ya’alon. And meanwhile, the local Palestinians are finding many ways to circumvent them (see attached map).
5. The prime minister and defense minister are certain that their policies are effective in one place, Jerusalem, where daily Palestinian attacks have dropped from several a day, to one every 7 to 10 days. The massive presence of security forces on the streets and in public places ensure that any attacker is shot dead on the spot.
But what the security forces call the “line of fire,” which runs from the Muslim neighborhoods of the capital to the Jewish districts, is invisible to the public eye, except to its victims. There, the stabbings and shootings have given way to firebombs and fireworks tossed night after night at the homes of Jewish neighbors, causing damage or fires, making the streets dangerous and terrifying householders.
An American general’s thankless job between Palestinians and Israelis
6. Few Israelis or Palestinians know the name of US Maj. Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, who has an office at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and quietly does his best to perform the thankless task of Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Several times a week, he travels to Ramallah, where he talks to Gen. Nidal Abu Dukhan, Head of the Palestinian Authority’s National Security Forces. He sometimes meets Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmud Abbas there as well.
DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that the American general has repeatedly asked Abu Dukhan to de-escalate the violence by creating a buffer zone between the Palestinians and the Israelis. After all, he says, the PA has at its disposal nine divisions of well-equipped and armed men, the equivalent of three brigades, for executing this task.
The Palestinian general regularly promises to consider the idea and just as regularly avoids taking concrete action.
7. But the buffer zone suggestion did give senior Israeli officers an idea. Since the Americans have failed to persuade the Palestinians to mark out a security buffer for curbing the attacks on Israelis before they occur, the IDF should establish one. This could be accomplished by imposing a total closure on Palestinian entry into Israel and the settlement blocs.
The plan was put by the military before Netanyahu and Ya’alon, but both waved it away for the time being.