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For PA’s Mahmoud Abbas, terror is a faucet that he turns on and off

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before a meeting in Paris on Feb. 19, 2014. Credit: U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands before a meeting in Paris on Feb. 19, 2014. Credit: U.S. State Department.

By Stephen M. Flatow/

While the international news media continue to insist that a “third intifada” is underway, the actual statistics on Palestinian terrorism in recent months have shown a steady decline in attacks. What’s going on?

Almost from the first day of the stabbing attacks, last August, major American newspapers and television networks declared that “a new Palestinian uprising” was underway. Some of the reporting smacked of thinly veiled cheerleading. You got the feeling that there were reporters and editors who really wanted the Palestinians to attack Israelis, in the hope that Israel would agree to create a Palestinian state. The whole attempt to give it an official name, the “third intifada,” seemed like an effort to make it a fait accompli before it wore off.

And sure enough, it is beginning to wear off—much to the dismay, no doubt, of pro-Palestinian advocates everywhere.

There were 171 attacks in August 2015, rising to 223 in September and 620 in October. But before the ink was dry on all those headlines that crowned it the “third intifada,” the attacks began decreasing. There were 326 in November, 246 in December, 169 in January, and 154 in February.

In the category of “substantial attacks,” there has also been a noticeable decrease: from 78 in October, to 20 in March, to only three in the first week of April.

Of course, there are a number of reasons for the decrease. First, intense Israeli military counter-terror operations have succeeded in disrupting terror networks, cutting off supplies, and imprisoning would-be killers. Just as Operation Defensive Shield, launched by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2002, almost completely stopped suicide bombings, so have recent efforts by the Israeli police and security services (Shin Bet) been enormously effective.

Israeli political and diplomatic positions have also helped discourage terror. Since the violence began, the Israeli government has not released any additional terrorists. It has not taken any further steps toward permitting creation of a Palestinian state. It has not banned Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. This kind of steadfastness sends an important message to the Palestinians that Israel will not capitulate to terror.

But the third, and perhaps most important, reason for the decline in terror is the one that is not discussed in polite company. You will never hear it from the State Department crowd, or other circles that aspire to bring about a Palestinian state. You won’t even hear it from Israeli political leaders who are afraid of being criticized. But it’s a fact: To a very significant extent, Palestinian terrorism is a faucet that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas can turn on or off at will. And in recent months, especially in recent weeks, he has been turning in the direction of “off.”

Israel’s leaders have repeatedly said that Abbas’s incitement is a major factor in causing Palestinian violence. The glorification of murderers, the payments to the families of the terrorists, the constant anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred in the PA-controlled media, and, of course, Abbas’s own bloodthirsty speeches all create an atmosphere that directly inspires murder. Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, despite his pro-Palestinian bias, has acknowledged that the PA’s incitement encourages terror.

If the first months of constant stabbings had resulted in Israeli capitulation, Abbas would have seen that the violence was working, and he would have continued encouraging it. Instead, what he has seen is that not only is Israel not offering new unilateral concessions, but American public opinion remains solidly in support of Israel. Every poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans stands with Israel, and blame the Palestinians for the absence of peace. Abbas understands that if he pushes too far, he could jeopardize the $500 million that the U.S. sends him each year.

Abbas has undoubtedly spread the word to the “Palestinian street” to cool down. And things are cooling down. It doesn’t mean they won’t heat up again. But it does show, once again, that Abbas is not genuinely interested in peace, and is not sincerely interested in stopping terrorism. For Abbas, terror is a convenient weapon that he will not hesitate to use if he believes it will help bring about Israel’s collapse and surrender.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

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