Is there any way to end the current wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks and rioting? Unfortunately, the situation on the ground and in the entire region gives little hope for a solution in the immediate future.
Despite intensive efforts by Israeli security forces to restore order, there were five terrorist attacks in central Israel, including Jerusalem, on Oct. 7 alone, and four more in quick succession Thursday.
One reason for the unbridled wave of violence is the Palestinian leadership’s loss of control in the Palestinian street. Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), 80, is very sick and constantly threatens to step down. His movement, Fatah, is no longer respected, although it still has thousands of members among the security forces in the seven Palestinian-ruled cities and their refugee camps.
The only lever of control they hold at present are the purse-strings for paying wages, but that too is fading. Hence, intelligence watchers expect the current wave of violence to persist, with ups and downs in intensity.
Some Israeli political and defense officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon try saying that the situation could be worse. They draw comfort (sic) from the terror being confined to stabbing attacks by Palestinian youths without descending into the suicide bombings, developed by the former Fatah strongman Muhammed Dahlan for the uprising (intifada) of 2000-2006, which claimed thousands of Israeli lives.
The region has moved way past the Palestinian issue
That reasoning is fallacious, since there is no guarantee that suicide attacks will never recur and unpleasant surprises have proved endemic to Palestinian uprisings against Israel.
Prominent Israeli opposition figures, including Yitzhak Herzog and Tzipi Livni from the Zionist Union Party, its defense guru, Ret. Gen. Amos Yadlin, a former head of IDF military intelligence, and Chairman of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, just back from meetings from Washington, all maintain strongly that the current security crisis is susceptible to a solution, by means of a regional political accommodation, with the participation of the rulers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
But even a cursory study of the facts shows this proposal to be totally unrealistic:
1. The Obama administration has completely washed its hands of the Palestinian issue. The same can be said of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is up to his neck in fighting wars in Ukraine and Syria. Iran, which President Barack Obama had tried casting in the role of transformational regional leader, is too busy fighting wars in Yemen and Syria. Without any superpower or Middle Eastern power to step in and promote a political process, it is a non-starter.
El-Sisi has other concerns, Jordan’s Abdullah won’t singe his hands again
Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi have been able to cultivate a good understanding. But it is limited to shared interests regarding Hamas in Gaza and Egypt’s anti-terror war against the Islamic State in Sinai and the Western Desert bordering Libya. There is no coordination between them on the handling of Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. This is not because Netanyahu would be averse to joint action for taking some of the intense pressure off his shoulders, but because it is not feasible.
Aside from the occasional comment, President El-Sisi has no interest in the Palestinian question and is too busy with his own burning issues to give it his attention. He is intensely focused on supporting the Russian operation in Syria and saving Bashar Assad, as well as the war in Yemen, in which the Egyptian Navy and Air Force are committed.
Even Jordan’s King Abdullah does not want to get his hands dirty. He realized at length that his condemnatory statements against Israel in recent weeks on the Temple Mount controversy made matters worse. They gave Palestinian terrorists a head wind at the expense of his own credibility.
People in the region began asking why he had not lived up to his pledge to act as custodian of the Temple Mount and the Aqsa Mosque. What was the Waqf, the Islamic Trust responsible for the shrine, which was appointed by the Hashemite throne with Israel’s full consent, doing when young Palestinian thugs turned Al Aqsa into a repository for rocks and firebombs?
Saudi King cools ties with Israel, leans on the clerical establishment
Abdullah now prefers to stand aside and let Netanyahu and Yaalon cope with the raging fire that blew up under his watch.
And there is Saudi King Salman. Putting his hands into the Palestinian fire is nowhere on his wish list, whether in Ramallah or the Gaza Strip.
Under his predecessor, the late King Abdullah, Jerusalem and Riyadh maintained secret and frequent contacts at high levels – usually between intelligence officials. In the ten months since Salman acceded to the throne, those contacts have cooled and been gradually downgraded to lower-level officials.
There are many reasons for this shift that are not directly connected to ties with Israel. But it must be attributed first and foremost to a strategic decision by Salman to rely heavily on support from the “Shura,” Saudi Arabia’s staunchly anti-Israel religious establishment, as a counterweight to the growing anti-monarchy influence of the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in the kingdom.
Even concern in Riyadh over Iran’s nuclear program, which was a prominent feature of the exchanges between Israeli and Saudi Arabia, has lost its urgency since the issue faded from the international agenda – despite the Netanyahu’s quixotic efforts to keep it alive.
Might Putin one day step into the Palestinian issue in a superpower role?
In any case, like Egypt and Jordan, Saudi Arabia is too overburdened with its own grave problems, such as the Yemen War, to find time for the Palestinians.
The kingdom is also sunk for the first time in its history in a huge deficit due to plunging global oil prices.
American and European financial circles report that in the last three months, Riyadh withdrew the enormous sum of 70 billion dollars from its reserves in various overseas funds, an average of 23 billion dollars a month.
The state of the Middle East and the Arab governments leaves Israel to contend alone and unaided with a wave of vicious Palestinian terror.
There may be another prospect – but it is still very far off.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has a common language with Abu Mazen. DEBKA Weekly’s sources point out that Moscow’s intelligence community, including high SVR officials, have stayed in close touch with the Palestinian leader for decades since he was a student at Moscow’s State Institute of Oriental Studies in the USSR of the 1960s. Putin also talks quite often with Netanyahu.
The prospect of Putin taking a hand in solving the Palestinian issue is nowhere near a current option. First, the Russian leader must see if he can bring to a successful conclusion his heavy investment in a military intervention in Syria and Iraq. That could take years.