In the year just gone, there was a noticeable decline in the Palestinian Authority’s ability to maintain stability in the territory of Judea and Samaria, the annual report from Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service is quite clear on that
It seems that the PA, in particular since the resignation of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, is incapable of effectively tackling the problem of armed groups in West Bank refugee camps. Nor has it proven able to thwart planned terror attacks, including those targeting itself or its President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli defense sources believe that Fayyad’s departure has had a deleterious impact on the Palestinian economy in PLO-ruled areas, while triggering a downward spiral in security due to an erosion of the capabilities of the Palestinian security forces.
A lack of governance is one of the central factors in the rise in terror attacks in Judea and Samaria that started in the last year, even as there was a clear drop in such incidents in the Jerusalem area.
One of the reasons for this downturn in Jerusalem is of course the activities of the Shin Bet and Israel Police, as well as the IDF, which in the last year expended a great deal of energy and resources on foiling terror attacks in and around the capital.
Nonetheless, Judea and Samaria experienced the opposite, as the IDF drastically reduced the number of troops deployed in the West Bank, cutting the frequency and intensity of preventative and punitive operations to insufficient levels, causing disconcerting erosion in deterrence, according to defense sources.
In 2013, a player was introduced to the Palestinian front – the salafis: jihadists who operate for the time being mainly in the Gaza Strip.
Nevertheless, Jihadi salafi cells are also appearing in the West Bank, albeit in small numbers, as Hamas is still the main driving force of terror activity in the Judea and Samaria region – 45% of terror attacks, including local attacks and terror acts that are executed under the Popular Resistance are initiated or inspired by Hamas.
Over the past year, several kidnapping attempts were reported, nearly all orchestrated from the Gaza Strip, by former prisoners who were released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, and who returned to crime.
Some of them operate in the Gaza Strip, and some in Turkey, led by Hamas member Saleh al-Aruri.
What will happen in 2014?
According to estimates by defense officials, regional instability caused by turmoil in the Arab world will have an affect on the Palestinian street. One can evaluate, with high probability, that if the diplomatic negotiations end without agreement or reach stalemate, a wave of violence may erupt – a new kind of intifada that would use less murderous terror but would increase the delegitimizing of Israel and the legitimizing of a Palestinian state, even without an agreement with Israel.
Evidently, Mahmoud Abbas’s popularity is not at its peak, and according to knowledgeable sources: “If the PA holds election today, there is no certainty that Abu Mazen (Abbas) and the PLO would win. There is definitely a chance that Hamas would garner the majority of the Palestinian street’s votes, which is why Abu Mazen is in no hurry to respond to Hamas’ reconciliation attempts, nor is he in a hurry to announce new elections.
Abu Mazan is still, however, doing better than Hamas, which has lost almost all the international support it used to have and is now in dire economic and political straits in the Gaza Strip.
Nevertheless, Hamas continues to push its supporters in the West Bank to execute terror attacks in Israeli territory. These efforts were thwarted in 2013, and the main issue was and remains over the past few years, local terror and what is known as “people’s resistance,” which mainly uses stone hurling, mass protests and firebombs.
During the second half of 2014, a drastic rise in such attacks can be expected. Many are convinced that only considerable financial betterment in the Palestinian territories could halt dangerous developments from escalating into violence. This state of affairs allows Israel to take unilateral steps which, though costly, could serve the Israeli market and increase security for settlers in the territories and for all residents of Israel. This move could also bring about a dramatic increase in the number of work permits in Israel granted to Palestinians.