economy and politics

Terror spreads across Israel

The latest outbreak of violence is not a response to the arrival of the most nationalist and extremist government in Israel’s history, but was already there, fostering it. Hopes of de-escalation or dialogue are slim. The terror will continue.

On January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Palestinian terrorist murdered seven people who were attending a religious ceremony. Two days later, in the archaeological complex known as the City of King David (Old City of Jerusalem), a 13-year-old Palestinian shot two Jews, seriously wounding them. Although many media outlets have presented these two attacks as a response to the formation of the new Israeli government – ​​the most nationalist in its history – this interpretive key is wrong: it is, in fact, the latest episodes of a wave of violence that began in March 2022, when the government of Israel was an entirely different one. At the time, the Israeli government was made up of a broad political spectrum ranging from Yamina’s nationalists to Mansour Abbas’s Islamists, which did not rid the country of the scourge of terrorism.

Wave of attacks of 2022

Although it is true that during the months of January and February of last year there were unsuccessful attempts at attacks in Israel, it was not until March that they were consummated, beginning the terrorist wave that is now spreading throughout Israel. Throughout 2022, a total of 31 civilians died in Israel in different terrorist attacks that took place in cities such as Bnei Brak, Tel Aviv or Beer Sheva.

The first of these major attacks took place on March 22 in the city of Beer Sheva, in the heart of the Negev desert. There, a Bedouin, Mohammed Abu al-Kiyan, murdered four people. He started by stabbing a gas station attendant on the highway to Hebron, then ran over a Chabad rabbi on his way to Beer Sheeva, and finally entered a shopping mall where he murdered two other people. The attack took Israeli society by surprise, not only because it was the deadliest outrage since 2017, but also because its perpetrator identified himself as a soldier of the Islamic State. To date, Daesh had not targeted Israel among its targets.

Shortly after, on March 31, there was another attack in the religious neighborhood of Bnei Brak, a place that seemed far from this type of violent act. There, a 26-year-old Palestinian, Diaa Hamarsheh, murdered five people, including a rabbi, who protected a two-year-old baby with whom he was walking with his body. The attack, which was claimed by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, caused a great commotion in Israel, not only because it closed a period of relative peace in that part of the country, but also because of the place chosen to carry it out, a neighborhood where many religious and ultra-orthodox Jews live.

The third of the attacks that shocked the country occurred a week later. On April 7, a Palestinian, Raad Hazem, broke into Dizengoff – the heart of cosmopolitan Tel Aviv – murdering three people who were enjoying the city’s nightlife on “Spring Hill”. The terrorist fled to the Arab part of the city (Jaffo), taking refuge in a mosque, where the Israeli security forces shot him down the next day. The area chosen to hide, the city of Yaffo, where a large part of the Arab-Israeli community resides, generated an extra element of tension in the coexistence between Arabs and Israelis. Furthermore, while it is true that Tel Aviv has been the target of numerous terrorist attacks, since the attack on the Sarona market in 2016 the city seemed to enjoy a certain truce.

In addition to these attacks, other events that raised tension in the area, from the death of the journalist from al jazzera Shireen Abu Akleh to various riots on the Temple Mount/Mosque Grounds, to Operation Dawn launched by the Israeli army on Gaza in August.

turn to the far right

As the then Prime Minister Yahir Lapid anticipated, the generalized climate of violence that existed before the elections were held was – and not the other way around – the necessary fertilizer for the results that were given on November 1. The Knesset that was formed then is, by far, the most nationalist and extremist in its entire history. Likud became the most voted option, with 32 seats, and the Religious Zionism coalition rose to third place, with a total of 14 seats. While it is true that Netanyahu’s governments have been supported by religious and ultra-Orthodox groups, this Kahanist dominance is something different. Personalities such as Itamar Ben Gvir, Bezalet Smotrich or Avi Maoz do not give rise to hope regarding a possible de-escalation or dialogue.

The record of Netanyahu’s associates seems to corroborate the prevailing pessimism. The Minister of National Security (Gvir) belonged to the radical group Kach and among his achievements is having stolen, weeks before his assassination, the emblem of the car (a Cadillac) of then Prime Minister Isaac Rabin. Gvir then stated: “We got to his car, we’ll get to him too”. For his part, the current finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, declares himself “homophobic and fascist prideSW”, believes that Arabs should not be Knesset deputies and was arrested for rioting during the disengagement of Gaza in 2005. Third, we must highlight the leader of the Noam party, Avi Maoz, who opposes Reform Judaismto the LGTBI march and for women to serve in the armed forces.

The appointment of Smotrich, Maoz and Gvir as ministers has generated concern in the United States, which sees in the new executive a radical coalition and far from that led by Bennet and Lapid. Thus, Washington perceives that the idea of ​​a new peace process is increasingly distant.

These three members of the government are not the only ones who have generated controversy. Aryeh Deri, for example, has been disqualified by the courts from occupying the Interior and Health portfolios that Netanyahu had assigned to him. Nor can we forget the controversial justice reform that Netanyahu wants to carry out as a trigger for conflict, a project that for many Israelis would cause a change of regime in the country. All these issues have caused tension in Israel to skyrocket, both within Israeli society itself and in the always complicated relationship with the Palestinians.

Infighting among the Palestinians

The last of the factors that we must attend to is that of the divisions among the Palestinians. The new suspension of the elections in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) is nothing more than another sign of the weakness of Mahmud Abbas, a president incapable of curbing the popularity of the Hamas movement among the inhabitants of the West Bank. Abbas is caught between pressure from the international community to come closer to Israel and the radicalization promoted by Hamas, which seems to have imposed the narrative that “negotiating with Israel is for traitors.” Although it is true that the tension is unsustainable, it is necessary to find a credible alternative to the president of the PNA, since every minute that passes without calling elections is gasoline used by Hamas to set fire to the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to serve as a scapegoat against which accusations are leveled, thus preventing criticism from falling on the PNA. An example of this fact was Abbas’s reaction to the two attacks that occurred in Jerusalem in January, events that for the president, the PNA, are the sole responsibility of Israel.

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