Palestinians Return to the Knife
The passivity of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), frontrunner to succeed Yasser Arafat in January 9 election, in the face of Palestinian violence, is noted by Israeli defense chiefs.
Last week, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon complained during his welcoming speech for British premier Tony Blair: the Palestinian Authority employs 30,000 security and police officers in the Gaza Strip. Yet they have not taken the slightest step to restrain terrorist attacks on Israel.
Sharon and his government are committed not to make waves that might spoil Abbas’s run for election. But the relentless mortar and missile assaults on Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip are too egregious to ignore or swallow – particularly in view of charges from Israeli residents of the Gaza Strip that Sharon is deliberately throwing them to the wolves. Furthermore, on December 12, a mixed Palestinian team blew up the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion’s post at the Rafah border crossing to Egypt, killing five Israeli soldiers. Discovered near the Gaza-Israeli crossing six days earlier was the Karni Tunnel which the Palestinians had designed for massive explosions across the Green Line inside an Israeli village – mostly probably Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The Israel officer who made the discovery was killed on the spot in a ferocious Hamas attack.
All these episodes were dealt with at length in the special conference Sharon called Wednesday, December 29, of national security chiefs, defense minister Shaul Mofaz, chief of staff Lt. Gen Moshe Yaalon and senior generals. But the resumed small-scale attacks by West Bank Palestinian knifemen were largely ignored.
Palestinian groups based in West Bank hotbeds may present the appearance of having mostly turned away from their archetypical massacres of Israeli civilians. In this territory, the Palestinian Authority, namely Abu Mazen, demonstrates a remarkable capability for reining in or at least fine-tuning the level of Palestinian terror as and when it suits him, meaning when he needs international help to gain Arafat’s seat.
This is a far cry from a commitment to dismantle the terrorist organizations, for which he has thus far not lifted a finger. It is a fact that Palestinian terrorism continues – not only in the Gaza Strip, but in mutated form from the West Bank too.
This December saw eight Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israelis. Two Israeli women were slashed to death and two Israeli men were badly injured. In the mixed Jerusalem suburb of Abu Tor, the Shin Beit caught a Palestinian preparing a suicide attack on behalf of the Hebron Hamas – not by himself; he wanted to persuade his 16-year old fiancee to “volunteer” for the deadly role. All these episodes were quickly brushed out of sight. debkafile therefore lists them one by one:
December 6, two Palestinians stabbed a middle-aged Israeli man in Abu Tor. His assailants escaped after injuring him moderately.
December 21, Ariela Fahima, 39-year old mother of four, died of a slit throat and other knife wounds outside her home in Moshav Nekhosha, southwest of Jerusalem.
December 26, Ziona Spivak, 67, was slashed to death in her apartment at Assa St, Jerusalem. The type and number of her injuries indicated two killers. She is thought to have opened the door to them. There were no signs of a break-in or burglary, but the murderers left the bloodstained knife behind, a common practice of Palestinian terrorists.
Earlier that day, two Palestinians attempted to stab an Israeli guard at Jerusalem’s downtown Klal Center. He drove them off after sustaining light injuries.
December 28, a Palestinian youth was captured near Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs armed with a “shabariya” dagger. He admitted he was about to attack an Israeli soldier or police officer protecting the shrine.
Hebron police admitted two similar incidents had taken place previously this month, neither published.
That same night, a young Palestinian woman turned herself into the Hebron police and surrendered a knife which she had intended using against an Israeli.
Some common features stand out from these episodes, aside from the use of a lethal blade. Most were carried out in the early afternoon on the assumption that then security and police officers take their midday meal and are therefore less alert. Moreover, the perpetrators mostly operated in pairs. And the knife offensive has so far focused on Jerusalem and Hebron, which is situated in the southern West Bank about one hour’s drive from the capital.
The Palestinians are believed by debkafile‘s terrorism analysts to be testing the ground for Israel’s reaction. There has been none. In fact, the general official approach is to play down each separate incident by suggesting that all avenues, including criminal assault, are under investigation. This approach blurs the issue and conceals the hand behind the attacks.
It also leaves the Israeli public unprepared for Palestinian knifemen on the hunt for victims in broad daylight and without the means to tackle the menace.
Since no one is stopping it, this form of low-grade terror may well multiply and spread to other places. Conspicuous terrorist operations in Israeli cities would damage Mahmoud’s international standing as a peacemaker and negotiator and jeopardize the flow of foreign funds lavished on him since Arafat’s demise. But small-scale attacks with blades rather than bombs permits Palestinian violence against Israelis to persist without compromising Mahmoud Abbas before voting day.
This is in keeping with the fact that no Palestinian official or leader – from Abbas and prime minister Ahmed Qureia down to the lowliest Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades gang chief – has offered any commitment to give up terrorism or eradicate it. The shift to knives is merely a pragmatic tactic to keep world criticism off Palestinian backs.
It just so happens that 18 months ago, an Israeli couple was brutally hacked to death outside the Hadassah medical center in Jerusalem on the night of June 5, 2003, the same day that Abu Mazen, together with President George W. Bush, Israeli prime minister Sharon and Jordan’s King Abdullah, met in Aqaba to endorse the Middle East roadmap.
That double murder went almost unnoticed in Israel and is still tagged unsolved by the Jerusalem police.
Israeli authorities, by their low-key handling of these crimes, are helping to plant the illusion in Israeli minds that a new post-Arafat era has arrived and that Abu Mazen promises to lead the Palestinians to peace negotiations while stamping out the war of terror initiated by his predecessor.
This is not the impression the Palestinians are getting from their future leader. They see Israelis continuing to die at their hands without interference and take it to mean that terrorism will persist under Abu Mazen’s rule too.