West Bank Cast into Ferment by Diplomatic-Security Vacuum

Matters are slipping out of hand on the West Bank. debkafile‘s military sources and security agencies in the region see the unrest spreading unless it is brought under control.
The Netanyahu government’s construction moratorium on settlement construction has had an acutely polarizing effect on Israelis on both sides of the Green Line. Three major Palestinian terrorist attacks were foiled in the last ten days. Whoever trashed a village mosque near Nablus early Friday, Dec. 11, tossed a match onto dry firewood.
The Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin warned the security cabinet this week that Mahmoud Abbas has spearheaded a campaign in world capitals for Israel’s ouster from the Middle East equation by making the Jewish state unacceptable as a negotiating partner and blackening its policies. He is harnessing governments to his objective of foisting a Palestinian settlement on Israel.
Diskin called this tactic “a diplomatic uprising (intifada)” which could blow up at any time.
The response of Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak to Abbas’ boycott is appeasement and concessions, such as the freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank.
This policy is not seen by Palestinians and Arab extremists as a desire for peace but as evidence of weakness and an invitation to build up pressure.
Not only are Jewish settlers and their supporters furious at what they see as the Likud leader’s back-stabbing, but in the last fortnight, debkafile‘s military sources report, Palestinian extremists are trying to use their leader’s diplomatic intifada as the starting-point for the real thing, a campaign of terror.
The Obama administration and some European capitals are partly to blame for letting the West Bank crisis get out of hand by allowing Mahmoud Abbas to slip the reins and pursue his dangerous game of excluding Israel from diplomacy.
But the Netanyahu-Barak duo and Abbas must bear most of the responsibility for the widening political, diplomatic and security vacuum.
The prime minister and his defense minister have spent the first year of their current term in office showing a marked lack of initiative on any front, whether to counter the Abbas campaign or face looming perils posed by the heavy rearming of Hizballah and Hamas and a potentially nuclear-armed Iran.
In the last fortnight, the IDF is under orders to play down the upsurge of Palestinian attempts at violence on both sides of the Green Line.
Our military sources confirm that, ten days ago, Israeli forces intercepted a band of six terrorists making their way from the northern West Bank into Israel for an attack. Last week, two large roadside bombs were discovered near Beth El primed to blow up against a passing IDF patrol. An alert scout discovered it in time.
Another explosive device was uncovered near Beit Umar in the Hebron sector of the southern West Bank.
And earlier this week, a Palestinian, believed to be a Popular Front member, was prevented from reaching central Jerusalem with six pipe bombs, enough for the biggest multi-casualty attack seen in Jerusalem in years.
In his short term as prime minister, Ehud Barak ignored similar obvious portents of the coming Palestinian war of terror unleashed in 2000 by Yasser Arafat; his suicide killers darkened Israel’s cities for more than three years. Even when it climaxed, he told Israeli troops not to turn their guns on the assailants but direct their fire at open ground.
Later, when he returned to government as defense minister in the 2007-2008 Olmert government, Barak watched Palestinian missiles battering southwestern Israel from the Gaza Strip with the same unconcern. Then, too, he instructed the Air Force to confine its bombardments to open spaces.
It was only when popular ire forced the government’s hand, that the defense minister launched the three-week Operation Cast Lead in late December, 2008.
Israel’s friends and enemies alike are asking what has happened to Israel’s strong defense posture in the face of present and impending threats.
Some critics see prime minister Binyamin immersed in a fool’s game, playing to the American gallery and trying to soft-soap the settlers while lacking the courage to address the escalating Palestinian challenge. His dependence on Barak, whose short span as prime minister was cut short by a snap election in 2002 after he offered Arafat 92 percent of the West Bank, reinforces the sense of infirmity at the top of government.
This sense has planted the suspicion that the West Bank building freeze was planned to place markers on areas to be ceded in readiness for Israel’s handover of territory – at a time when Palestinian intentions are the reverse of peaceful.
Friday, Dec. 11, all these tensions boiled over: Before the police had even broached its investigation into the willful damaging of the Kfar Yasuf mosque, Palestinian spokesmen and their Israeli supporters pointed the finger at “right-wing extremist settlers.” One Israeli broadcaster accused “those madmen.”
Within hours, the same Palestinian activists and their Israeli champions were rioting in Sheikh Jarrah against the homes Jews have purchased in this predominantly Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem. Police forces stopped them marching on those homes. In the melee, 22 rioters and 6 policemen were hurt.
West Bank rabbis have pleaded for the holy places of all faiths to be excluded from the conflict between the two nations. But the ferment on all sides is rising, inflamed by the diplomatic vacuum dictated by the Palestinian side and the lack of firm resolve and direction in Jerusalem.

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