Monday, December 28, 2015

The stability litmus test - Prof. Eyal Zisser

by Prof. Eyal Zisser

In a chaotic Arab world, Palestinians recognize the value of the stability they enjoy.

While the wave of terrorism that has hit Israel continues unabated, experts have argued whether it should be called an intifada, a limited uprising, or a local one. Additionally, the experts are divided on the question of how much longer the stabbings and vehicular attacks are expected to continue -- several months? Perhaps more?
Among the Palestinians are those willing to get up in the morning and, given the opportunity, stab Jews or ram them with their cars. However, it should be noted that this is not a popular uprising like the First Intifada in the late 1980s, or even the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. The masses are not rising up to fight Israeli soldiers in the streets, and there is no organized network of terrorist cells capable of carrying out suicide bombings in Israel.
The lone attackers who try harming Israeli soldiers and civilians may have a tailwind of support from the Palestinian street, which is always quick to empathize with their actions, but the fact is that only a small number of Palestinians are ready to join this terror wave. There is a discernible desire among Palestinians to avoid escalating the current violence, which is in fact most harmful to the Palestinians themselves.
That we are seeing lone-wolf attacks and not a large-scale, organized mobilization is mostly due to the effectiveness of Israel's security forces, which are on the ground and able to recognize any significant attempt by Hamas or other terrorist groups to establish a foothold. The security forces disrupt the establishment of terrorist networks and infrastructure, like the ones that exist in Gaza, that are so vital to carrying out complex and large-scale terrorist attacks.
The fact that the overwhelming majority of those on the Palestinian street are not being sucked in by these lone attackers, even though they automatically support their actions, is because they want to maintain the quiet and stability the current situation affords them. Therefore, the defense establishment, led by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, has called for decisive action against the attackers while trying to avoid disrupting the everyday life of the Palestinian public.
The Palestinians in the territories have not suddenly fallen in love with Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria, but as they look around them at what is happening in the Arab world they realize that want the calm offered by the Israeli presence, loathsome as they may find it. After all, despite the wave of stabbings, Palestinian day-to-day life in the West Bank is continuing as normal. Their current status is excellent in comparison to most other Arab societies in the region.
In Syria, hardly any Syrians are left. The country itself has long since become a pile of rubble. We are lucky that Israel cannot be blamed for its destruction. The ones who are to blame for this are the same people who pretend to help the Palestinians -- the Assad regime, Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand, and radical Islamist groups on the other. Both sides have been killing the Syrian people and have turned millions of them into refugees. The death toll over the past five years of civil war in Syria is 10 times higher than the number of Palestinians killed in the past 100 years of conflict with Israel.
Syria, however, is just one example. We can talk about Yemen or Libya, and of course Iraq. 
Meanwhile, relatively stable states like Egypt and Lebanon have also been hit by waves of terrorist attacks, in which more Egyptians or Lebanese citizens have died in recent weeks than Palestinians in the past year. 
Amid this situation of utter chaos in the Arab world around us, the Palestinians recognize the value of the stability they have, both economically and in security terms. They have no interest in derailing it. To be sure, one can certainly dislike the Israeli presence in the territories -- civilian and military alike -- but anyone who is thinking clearly can see what the alternative is and where the Arab world is headed.
Lone attackers filled with hatred and extremism will continue trying to do harm, just like others similar to them across the Arab world and in Europe. The fact remains, however, that these few are not succeeding in swaying the population as a whole toward conflict with Israel.

Prof. Eyal Zisser


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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