The recent uptick in terrorist attacks across Judea and Samaria, as well as on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, has raised concerns that we are on the brink of another wave of terrorism, if not a full-fledged third intifada. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority encourage this—the former in a blatant and aggressive manner, and the latter more subtly, albeit explicitly. They each have their own reasons for this.
For now, however, recent events are still sporadic enough not to spell a conflagration.
Truth be told, the situation on the ground is agitated, and tensions are fueled mostly by the chaos that characterizes Palestinian politics. Hamas is fighting for its survival, as well as for its status as Gaza’s ruler, and the P.A. has quietly begun gearing up for the day after the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas.
Economic realities on both sides are also difficult: Gaza has been plagued by a prolonged economic crisis, made worse by Hamas’s failed administration, and is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. The situation in the West Bank are better, but the P.A.’s economic growth has also stagnated.
The Palestinians’ frustration is further compounded by the fact that hopes of reviving the moribund regional peace process are fading. At the same time, U.S. President Donald Trump’s Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has augmented their animosity.
As the political and military turmoil that has been plaguing the Middle East in recent years is finally ebbing, the fear that a Palestinian uprising would escalate into a chaotic Iraqi- or Syrian-like reality is waning, too. This fear was something of a restraining element in a reality where many Palestinian youth still see violence as the default option, and where one terrorist attack breeds a series of copycats.
Still, we cannot say that we are on the brink of a third intifada. Both Hamas and the P.A. have no interest in provoking an all-out security escalation, mainly because they fear things would spiral out of control, and the current regimes in Ramallah and Gaza would be unseated.
The Palestinian public also seems to lack the necessary enthusiasm to launch a wave of frenzied violence, as they know that at the end of the day, they would be the ones to pay the price for it. Their view of a future intifada is sober and somber, and they know that a new wave of terrorism would not serve their national interest.
This view is shared by the majority of Arab leaders, who have no interest in backing Palestinian violence at a time when they are trying to rally the Arab world against Iran, rather than Israel.
The recent spate of terrorist attacks should be addressed as sporadic and unrelated events. This does not take away from the fact that the complex realities in Gaza, Judea and Samaria pose a strategic question that Israel has to monitor and deal with while being prepared for any scenario.
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.