Some in Israel have described the events of the past month of Ramadan as “relatively quiet,” and expressed the hope that the upcoming “Nakba Day,” when Palestinians commemorate the “catastrophe” of the establishment of the State of Israel, and “Naksa Day,” when they mourn the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War, will be similarly “quiet.”
The description is unfortunate not only because 19 Israelis were killed in a series of terrorist attacks across the country in the past month, but because it reflects the Eastern European shtetl mentality, in which Jews lived in fear that their gentile neighbors might “mark” their holidays by inciting pogroms.
Another often-heard statement is that the confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian rioters over the past month (and before) have strengthened Hamas, and have even turned the terrorist group into a leading force in the Palestinian arena.
But the reality on the ground is that while Hamas is trying to ride the wave of violence and gain strength from it, it is not responsible for it, nor does it control its intensity and severity. Hamas does not control the Palestinian street, and certainly not the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian arena, including the Arab Israeli public, is characterized by a lack of leadership, a lack of direction, and internal chaos.
No organization stood behind the past month’s terror attacks, and even the Temple Mount riots, in which several hundred Palestinians participated, failed to garner the support of the majority of the Palestinian public, who chose to stay on the sidelines.
At the end of the day, every Palestinian understands that Hamas is headed nowhere—one look at Gaza is sufficient to understand this. The terrorist organization is in charge of the Gaza Strip, and the situation of the local population has never been worse, with very little hope of it improving in the foreseeable future.
Hamas is trying to cause a flare-up in Judea and Samaria and among the Arab Israeli public because it fears a direct confrontation with the Israeli military on the Gaza border, for the State of Hamas will be the one to pay the price for any fighting in the strip. Hamas’s policy projects no sophistication or boldness, only weakness.
Even Yahya Sinwar’s attack on Islamist Ra’am Party leader Mansour Abbas is proof that the Hamas chief and his associates fear that Abbas’s policy of integration into Israeli society is gaining popularity among Arab Israelis and that many Palestinians would prefer Israeli citizenship if given the choice.
This is Israel’s great victory over Palestinian nationalism, but now is not the time to celebrate as the chaos of the Palestinian arena poses a security challenge for Israel. These waves of terror require an active policy, not just maintaining the status quo or waiting until the next event on the calendar and the terror wave it might bring with it.
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.