Big Picture Shows Tranquility Despite 2 Isolated Killings of Israeli Soldiers

Palestinians Keep Lid on Violence With Peace Deal in Mind

Grim Ritual: Stony-faced soldiers mourn an Israeli comrade shot dead in Hebron. Despite the angst, Israelis must understand the facts show violence is way down.
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Grim Ritual: Stony-faced soldiers mourn an Israeli comrade shot dead in Hebron. Despite the angst, Israelis must understand the facts show violence is way down.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published September 26, 2013, issue of October 04, 2013.
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The three deaths from West Bank terrorism in 2013 follow a year, 2012, in which nine Israelis were killed, all in attacks originating from Gaza or Sinai, none from the West Bank.

Those numbers need qualification. While there were no fatal attacks on the West Bank in 2012, the Israel Defense Forces website shows numerous non-fatal attacks: 15 shootings, 642 firebombings and 4,731 rock-throwing incidents. Many more attacks were thwarted.

But these numbers are a fraction of what Israel suffered during serious terror waves, including the First Intifada from 1988 to 1993 and the blood-soaked Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005. The reason, as Israeli security officials repeatedly tell a disbelieving Knesset, is some seven years of successful Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation.

This fact is uncomfortable for the Israeli right, which works hard to keep the memory of the terror years fresh. If Palestinians are shown to be a band of irredeemable terrorists, then Israel can’t grant them independence — and thus must keep control of the biblical heartland in Judea and Samaria.

One result of this dissonance is the periodic dark comedy of military and Shin Bet leaders testifying in Knesset that terrorism is down because of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and being told by angry lawmakers that, no, it is all thanks to you military and Shin Bet guys.

What’s the difference who’s responsible? According to current Shin Bet director Yoram Cohen, addressing Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem last January, Abbas is very much in command of his security apparatus. His goal is a peace agreement with Israel. But he needs to show progress, so his security efforts don’t brand him as a collaborator. Warnings have been sounded for years that if Palestinian statehood isn’t on the horizon, cooperation will break down. And then all hell will break loose.

But Netanyahu does the opposite. Settlements keep growing, squeezing the land available for a Palestinian state. Last November, in retaliation for Abbas’s U.N. statehood bid, he froze the transfer of tax revenues that Israel collects for the Palestinians. Salaries weren’t paid. Abbas’s security forces couldn’t pay their grocery bills. Following the latest killings, Bibi ordered the opening of a hotly disputed Hebron building to settler occupancy.

Abbas feels the heat, as he made clear that Monday at the Plaza. “Some people have lost their hope of a two-state solution because they see settlements everywhere,” he said. “They criticize me for negotiating with the Israelis. But I gave my word.”

“I am not doing Israel a favor,” Abbas said. “I am doing it for my own people. If I did not have hope, you would not see me here.”

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


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