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March 20, 2018 12:39 pm

Palestinians Remain Wary of a New Wave of Terrorism

avatar by Eyal Zisser / Israel Hayom / JNS.org

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Palestinian youths participate in the graduation ceremony for a military-style camp organized by the Hamas terror group in Gaza, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

JNS.orgThe recent uptick in terrorist attacks across Judea and Samaria, as well as on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, has raised concerns that Israel is on the brink of another wave of terrorism — if not a full-fledged third intifada.

Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) encourage terrorism against Israelis (the former in a blatant and aggressive manner, and the latter more subtly, albeit explicitly). And they each have their own reasons for doing so.

For now, however, recent events are still sporadic enough not to spell a conflagration.

Truth be told, the situation on the ground is fraught, and tensions are fueled mostly by the chaos that characterizes Palestinian politics. Hamas is fighting for its survival, as well as for its status as Gaza’s ruler, and the PA has quietly begun gearing up for the day after Mahmoud Abbas dies or steps down.

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Economic realities on both sides are also difficult: Gaza has been plagued by a prolonged economic crisis, made worse by Hamas’s failed administration; Gaza is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. The situation in the West Bank is better, but the PA’s economic growth has also stagnated.

The Palestinians’ frustration is further compounded by the fact that hopes of reviving the moribund regional peace process are fading. And Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has augmented their animosity.

As the political and military turmoil that has been plaguing the Middle East in recent years is finally beginning to ebb, the fear that a Palestinian uprising would escalate into a chaotic Iraqi- or Syrian-like reality is waning, too.

Therefore, we cannot say that we are on the brink of a third intifada. Both Hamas and the PA have no interest in provoking an all-out security escalation, mainly because they fear that things would spiral out of control, and that the current regimes in Ramallah and Gaza would be unseated.

The Palestinian public also seems to lack the necessary enthusiasm to launch a wave of frenzied violence, as they know that at the end of the day, they would be the ones to pay the price for it. Their view of a future intifada is sober and somber, and they know that a new wave of terrorism would not serve their national interest.

This view is shared by the majority of Arab leaders, who have no interest in backing Palestinian violence at a time when they are trying to rally the Arab world against Iran, rather than Israel.

The recent spate of terrorist attacks in Israel should be addressed as sporadic and unrelated events. But this does not take away from the fact that the complex realities in Gaza and Judea and Samaria pose a strategic question that Israel has to monitor and deal with, while being prepared for any scenario.

Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

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