Analysis: Abbas restrains with one hand, incites with the other

This push and pull is a distinct characteristic of the latest wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence.


Even as authorities and strong impulses fan the flames of the knife attacks sweeping Israel for the past month, there are also powerful forces working to prevent an escalation. In fact, often those authorities that incite terrorism and push the assailants onto the streets, are also the ones working intensively, rather cleverly, to prevent an escalation of violence. This absurd dichotomy is what has prevented the wave of terrorism from becoming a real intifada.


Also noteowrthy is the fact that the panicked reaction of Israelis to these random knifings encourages more Palestinians to take up knives. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also reward the assailants, turning them into instand national-religious heroes and celebrities.


These are the distinctive characteristics of this latest round of Israeli-Palestinian violence. On the one hand – it hasn’t stopped and doesn’t seem it will fade. Every day there are two or three stabbings or attempted stabbings, and occasionally vehicular attacks. On the other hand, the religious nature of the attacks has subsided and now the tension with the settlers in Hebron, along with the fear displayed on the Israeli street, maintain a more or less constant level of violence, especially in the West Bank areas of Hebron, Kiryat Arba and Gush Etzion junction.


This week’s stabbing attacks in central Israel are no exception. The terrorist who stabbed and seriously injured two adults in the town of Rishon Letzion was a young man from Hebron. The attack in the Mediterranean coastal town of Netanya three hours later was very likely an imitation of the stabbings in Rishon Lezion.


As mentioned above, the forces fanning the flames are also the ones keeping them from a total conflagration. Hamas restrains with an iron fist young Gazans who taunt Israeli soldiers on the border fence and makes sure things don’t get out of control. Two or three young Gazans wounded each day by Israeli troops is a tolerable number for Hamas in Gaza.


Hamas is also making sure that “rebellious” organizations don’t fire rockets from Gaza into Israel. Sometimes an occasional rocket eludes its vigil, but with the help of Islamic Jihad and other organizations, Hamas is preventing an escalation. But it is in the West Bank that Hamas wants a full-scale intifada. If possible – an armed one.


Abbas, the Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials are working both to inflame and restrain. Official Palestinian media outlets constantly incite, and Abbas has already given some memorable performances, including the story that never was with the 13-year-old boy who was reported to have been executed by Israeli soldiers but was later seen eating pudding on his bed at the Hadassah Medical Center. The same Abbas speaks of the Jews with their dirty feet who soil the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque, but works diligently behind the scenes to prevent an escalation.


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