Perhaps it is because they feel more out in the cold than ever, or because they see the success Hamas is having in gaining Israel’s attention with regular rocket and arson attacks, but whatever the reason, it seems that the Palestinian Authority and Fatah are readying for an escalation in the violence emanating from the territories they control.
In recent weeks, top Palestinian officials have spoken more and more openly about what they call “a return to armed struggle” and using “resistance in all of its forms,” which we know from past bloody experience means active terrorism.
The question that Israeli policy makers have to ask themselves is whether they are finally ready to fight fire with fire.
The Palestinian officials, including Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub, Fatah Revolutionary Council member Muhammad al-Laham and the head of the Committee to Resist Settlements and the Wall, Walid Assaf—a personal appointee of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas—are readying their people for battle with their calls to arms.
Israel has not seen a wide-scale violence emanating from Judea and Samaria for some time, especially coordinated and orchestrated violence, and has become lax in its thinking towards the P.A. because it believes it to be contained and largely disinterested in organized terrorism.
This appears to be changing. P.A. rhetoric is being ramped up to levels not seen in years. They are preparing the ground for outright conflict.
In a rapidly changing region, now might be exactly the time for Israel to also return to “armed struggle.”
Not since “Operation Defensive Shield” in 2002 has Israel launched a large-scale offensive against Palestinian terror groups in Judea and Samaria, including those associated with Fatah.
In the years since, the Palestinian armed groups have not remained static, they have trained and prepared. For them it has never been a question of if they will return to the “armed struggle,” but when.
It is clear that pressure from the United States, a reduction of aid, a focus on the infrastructure of terror payments and incitement, and now Israel normalizing relations with the United Arab Emirate, have caused the Palestinian leadership to feel more isolated and cornered than ever.
They might feel like now is the time for an attack, because they have little to lose and much to gain.
Israel, on the other hand, has much to lose.
It can ill afford another semi-permanent front in addition to the constantly smoldering borders it has in the south with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and in the north with Hezbollah.
To prevent this, Israel must defeat the Palestinians with our own “armed struggle.” It should use its overwhelming force to finally emerge as victorious over the Palestinians and their violent rejectionism and terror.
The Israeli political and security establishment should make a decision now that any future conflagration will be the last. It is time for the over 100-year conflict to end, finally.
Enacting a policy towards Judea and Samaria’s terror groups similar to that employed against Hamas in Gaza could be devastating and overwhelming. Israel can ill afford to react to violence with compromises. Providing the Palestinian Authority with suitcases full of millions of dollars and desperately suing for peace by making harmful concessions will bring terrorism to the doorstep of the coastal plain, where 80 percent of Israel’s population resides.
We cannot afford to incentivize belligerent behavior.
On the other hand, if Israel is able to convince the Palestinian leadership that it has lost, that it does not pay to continue fighting, that Israel as the national and indigenous homeland of the Jewish people is permanent and cannot be defeated or destroyed, then the conflict will end, for the good of all.
If it is able to do so then relations with the Palestinians can be normalized, a Palestinian polity can be established and built up that serves the interests of its people, not appropriated for the machinery of terror and violence, but for the welfare of the Palestinian people.
While people talk about the “domino effect” of the agreement with the UAE, victory over the Palestinians will be the most significant domino in the region.
If this conflict ends, ensuring peace, security and prosperity for both peoples, then pragmatic Arab states in the region will flock to Jerusalem to sign normalization of relations agreements.
This would be the “New Middle East” others have spoken about—while the path of negotiations and concessions never achieved it, Israeli victory can.
This vision will be realized if Israel returns to a policy of overwhelming deterrence and reverts to the “armed struggle” to match that which the Palestinian Authority is readying for.
Israel victory is the only way to finally end the conflict, because it seems like the conflict is returning on our eastern front.
Our armed struggle must defeat theirs.
Nave Dromi is an Israeli commentator and director of the Middle East Forum’s Israel Office.