Dangerous escalation in the West Bank

The Israeli security establishment fears the escalation in the West Bank and the possibility of an armed popular intifada breaking out by the end of the year. The PA's power on the ground is weakening, the succession battle at the top of the PA is intensifying and the political echelon must make a decision on a major military operation in northern West bank to curb the spread of terrorist activity.

The escalation in the West Bank continues even after the attack carried out yesterday by a local terrorist squad from the Jenin area against a bus of soldiers in the northern Jordan Valley, which had been quiet until now from a security point of view.
In the attack, 7 IDF soldiers were injured, one of them seriously.
The terrorist organizations are encouraged by the success of the shooting attacks, the Palestinian incitement continues on social media with calls for an armed intifada in the West Bank.
Last night, 4 IDF soldiers were injured by throwing explosive devices at an IDF position in the Ramallah area.
In the end Last week we received another example of the increasing terrorism in the West Bank, a terrorist from the Deheiysha refugee camp attacked an IDF soldier with a knife at a checkpoint in the Kiryat Arba area and moderately injured him, he was shot dead by an IDF soldier.
The American government is very concerned about the escalation in the West Bank ,it sent Barbara Leaf, Deputy Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
She met with senior officials in Israel and the Palestinian Authority and emphasized the need to reduce violence in the territories and provide additional relief to the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli security officials made it clear to Barbara Leaf that the war on terror will continue with full force.
The Israeli security system is very concerned about the recent security developments in the West Bank and the increase in the use of firearms to carry out attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians.
According to IDF data, the past year was characterized by a record number of shooting attacks, since the beginning of the year there were 60 shooting attacks until August, another 220 shooting attacks were thwarted by the security forces.
Last year there were 50 shooting attacks, in 2020 there were 48 attacks and in 2019 there were 61 terrorist attacks.
The IDF and Shin Bet arrested more than 1,200 wanted terrorists in the West Bank over the past 4 months.
A phenomenon that greatly worries the IDF is the increase in the throwing of Molotov cocktails, since the beginning of the year until now more than a thousand Molotov cocktails have been thrown at IDF forces and Israeli civilians in the West Bank territories.
From the beginning of the year until today, more than 70 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with the security forces.
Despite the wave of shooting attacks in the main cities in Israel, the IDF, on the orders of the political echelon, refrained from holding a large military operation in northern Samaria to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure which includes several hundred armed terrorists and thousands of illegal weapons and large quantities of ammunition.
On the other hand, the IDF increased the activity of its special units to thwart the activities of individual terrorists who intend to carry out attacks against Israelis.
It turns out that this activity is not enough to stop terrorism, the holiday season is approaching and the security establishment has verified intelligence information about the intentions of terrorist organizations to increase their activity, at the rate at which the events are taking place, it seems that there is no escape and the IDF will soon be forced to launch a large-scale military operation in the West Bank to eradicate the phenomenon of terrorism.
The IDF will try to separate the Palestinian cities that are not involved in terrorism from the northern West Bank so as not to drag all the West Bank areas into escalation and will increase cooperation with the security forces of the Palestinian Authority.

Escalation on the ground

In recent days there has been an increase in shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers and clashes with IDF forces wherever they enter Palestinian villages and town to make arrests.
This escalation could lead to the outbreak of a new armed popular intifada by the end of the year, something that worries the Israeli security establishment.
The cities of Jenin and Nablus in the West Bank are leading this trend, but recently other places like the town of Tubas, the village of Roujeeb and the town of Silwad have joined them.
Israel is in a race against time to prevent the individual terrorists in the field from becoming strong terrorist squads experienced in attacks.
Today it is more difficult for the IDF forces to make arrests In various places in the West Bank they are encountering clashes with young Palestinians who use firearms, Molotov cocktails and stones, this phenomenon did not exist two years ago, the level of courage of the Palestinians has increased and the Israeli deterrence has eroded.
The confrontations between the IDF forces and the Palestinian residents of the West Bank have become a daily issue in certain places, such as northern West Bank, this phenomenon began with the military operation in the Gaza Strip in May 2021 and is also gaining momentum following the recent military confrontation between the IDF and the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

The weakening of the PA's power

The worsening of the security situation in the West Bank is also rooted in the weakening of the Palestinian Authority's power, which previously relinquished control over certain areas, such as the Jenin area, in order not to enter into armed conflicts with the armed operatives of the Islamic Jihad in this area.
As long as they do not threaten the central government of the PA in Ramallah, PA chairman Abu Mazen's directive is not to confront them if they do not directly challenge the PA's security forces and focus on confrontations with the IDF.
The PA lost control of the refugee camps in the West Bank where independent armed groups arose, some of which were supported by Muhammad Dahlan.
The Hebron area also became an independent area due to clan conflicts and the PA has difficulty enforcing order and security there.
The strategy of Abu Mazen is to show that the popular intifada against the Israeli occupation is increasing and that Israel must withdraw as soon as possible from all territories up to the 67 lines
It is highly doubtful whether the economic concessions that Israel makes to the Palestinian Authority, in coordination with the Biden administration, can bring calm .
Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen will go to Egypt this week to seek the support of President Al-Sisi in his new-old initiative to convince the UN to grant the State of Palestine full membership in the UN, currently it has the status of an observer state.
This is the only political card that Abu Mazen has in the absence of a political horizon, Israel and the US strongly oppose this move and the administration has warned Abu Mazen that it will veto it when the issue reaches the Security Council.

The terrorist organizations are trying to take advantage of the political instability in Israel due to the election campaign to undermine security stability by increasing incitement on social media and terrorist attacks.
There are tens of thousands of illegal weapons in the West Bank and if Israel does not stop the security chaos in the North of the West Bank in time, it may gradually move and spread to other areas, the current activity of the IDF in the North Bank is not enough to stop the terrorism, there are hundreds of armed wanted terrorists in the area and Iran and Hezbollah are flowing funds to the Islamic Jihad organization in the northern West Bank in order to establish a front outpost there for the purpose of taking over additional areas.
The bottom line is as follows: the security situation in the West Bank is on an escalating trend and extensive activity by the IDF in the northern West Bank is required to stop the spread of terrorism to additional areas, the decision to do so is in the hands of the political echelon.

Yoni Ben Menachem

Senior Middle East Analyst

הערה: הכותב הוא מזרחן ומנכ"ל רשות השידור לשעבר

אודות יוני בן מנחם

יוני בן מנחם הוא מזרחן, עיתונאי ומנכ"ל רשות השידור לשעבר. הוא בעל עשרות שנות ניסיון בעיתונות הכתובה והמצולמת. דרכו של בן מנחם בעולם המדיה החלה כמפיק של הטלוויזיה היפנית במזרח התיכון. לאחר מכן, הוא מילא תפקידי מפתח רבים בתקשורת הישראלית: מנכ"ל רשות השידור, מנהל רדיו קול ישראל, כתב לענייניי שטחים, כתב ופרשן מדיני, פרשן לענייני המזרח התיכון ועורך ראשי ומגיש התוכנית 'מגזין המזה"ת'. 

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