The first Intifada in the late 1980s also started like this, with a series of inexplicable incidents, not connected to terror groups; cases of ”spontaneous violence.“
Suddenly we saw bus drivers running over soldiers at hitchhiking stations, or regular drivers running over soldiers on roads. This was followed by stabbings, the hurling of Molotov cocktails, and stone throwing. People around here referred to it as ”atmosphere-inspired attacks“ and insisted this was about people with mental problems who were incited and influenced by religious radicalization.
Back then, in 1988, we thought the wave of violence will end on its own. Let’s hope that today, in 2008, we are more experienced, less naive, and much less engaged in daydreaming – what’s going in recent months, particularly in Jerusalem, is no coincidence at all.
There is a connection between all the attacks taking place before our eyes and between all those “crazy bulldozer drivers.” This connection has a name: Government weakness. From here, the deterioration is unavoidable, as government weakness and the inability to enforce the law lead to a lack of deterrence, crime, and anarchy.
Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin referred to it Tuesday at the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee as a “government vacuum.” He said that Israeli authorities find it much easier today to enter the Jenin refugee camp than neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. In the rural area around Jerusalem, which is under the Jerusalem city hall municipal jurisdiction but has been left outside the security fence, there is no Israeli presence whatsoever. No army and no police.
Nobody has any idea of what goes on there. People are walking around there in possession of entry permits to Israel, in the form of Israeli ID cards, with a reckless atmosphere of incitement and anarchy around them.
Today, one need not to go the mosques in order to absorb the venom; the mosques reach the home – via the Internet. All the Arab-Israeli cells recently nabbed and charged with al-Qaeda membership signed up for the organization through global jihad forums. There is no longer any need for secret agents who recruit new activists. You can just go into the right online forum.
Not to mention the hatred aired on Palestinian and Arab radio and television channels that can brainwash even the most moderate person.
In places where there is no physical Israeli presence, there is no possibility of addressing the terror utilized against Israel. This is what Shin Bet Chief Diskin told Knesset members Tuesday. And Israel has no presence in the east Jerusalem area and the villages around the capital.
All the recent prominent attackers (the “atmosphere-inspired attackers,” the ones who seemingly “lost it”) came mostly from the rural area and possessed Israeli ID cards. In Jerusalem alone, 71 terror-related cases were investigated in the first half of 2008; there were only 37 terror-related incidents in the capital in all of 2007. Is it a coincidence?
Government isn’t feared
Following the first bulldozer attack, security authorities decided to keep a closer watch on bulldozer drivers arriving from east Jerusalem. Well, that didn’t really work. We saw it on Tuesday. And tomorrow we’ll see a terror attack committed with the use of a truck – so they’ll keep a closer watch on truck drivers. This is how it is around here: We fight yesterday’s war. It is much easier doing that than utilizing government powers efficiently and resolutely and undertaking deterring steps that would make clear to the next spontaneous murderer that the moment he embarks on his mission – not only will his home be razed, his family will lose all the rights granted to it by the Israeli ID card.
At this time, the government isn’t feared, it isn’t present on the ground, and the crossing points along the wall do not function properly because some bad Defense Ministry advisor decided to hinder the acquisition of biometric systems (and nobody can say a thing to him.) There is no buffer around Jerusalem, there is no massive police presence inside the city, and there is ambiguity regarding the division of powers between the IDF and police in the rural area around Jerusalem.
In addition, we can add the fact that there are no deterring punishments, so we should not be surprised if the next bulldozer driver, assassin, or knifeman is already planning his spontaneous outburst.
Another isolated case, and another one after that, create a sequence and a certain atmosphere, particularly in Jerusalem. For Jewish radicals this is a reason for acts of revenge, and this is how a new Intifada can start without anyone planning it. Later, using retrospective wisdom, they will characterize it and suddenly find historical motives and processes to explain it.
Yet there is no new historical process here. We need to call it by name: What we have here is a weak mind and a weak government.