"The City of Jerusalem is having a difficult time providing municipal services beyond the security fence, causing that area to become no man's land," Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday.
"The fence has forced many illegal (Palestinian) residents to gather around it, and many are emigrating from the West Bank to these areas. This has led to an increase in crime and illegal construction there," he said.
Diskin mentioned that 2010 saw a decrease in terror-related events in Israel from the previous year, apart from Jerusalem and the surrounding area. "Despite the fact that Palestinians in this area carry blue (Israeli) identification cards, Israel's level of governing there is not high. This area also responds strongly to incidents in Gaza and the West Bank," he told the Knesset members.
Addressing the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, Diskin said Jewish presence there has led to violence.
As for the Sinai Peninsula, the Shin Bet chief said, "If the Egyptians want to, they can put an end to the smuggling to Gaza within 48 hours. They have a 14-kilometer (about nine miles) border with Gaza but they are not preventing the smuggling. They act with resolve only when there is a substantial threat to Egypt's national security.
"The terror organizations consider Sinai a legitimate area to operate in. Egypt's level of control in Sinai is very low," he said.
According to Diskin, in 2010 Israel thwarted 155 terror attacks emanating from Gaza, seven from the West Bank and three from Sinai and the Negev. Nine Israelis were killed in terror-related incidents in 2010, compared with 11 in 2009.
Riots in Silwan (Archive photo: Reuters)
Turning his attention to the stalled peace negotiations, the Shin Bet chief said Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's plan to establish a state "from the ground up" saw progress in 2010, particularly with regards to security, infrastructure and the judicial system.
Diskin lauded the Palestinian Authority's struggle against Hamas in the West Bank, but said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement was weakening. "There is no young generation of leaders. Abbas' leadership is even more significant today. There is no natural leader who is accepted by everyone, and therefore the forces prefer that (Abbas) remain in the arena," Diskin said.
Addressing Palestinian threats to unilaterally declare statehood and gain recognition abroad, Diskin said, "This is Israel's weak spot, and the PA is taking advantage of it to successfully present challenges vis-à-vis the delegitimization (of Israel), economic boycotts and supervised political escalation.
"This process is gaining momentum because the Palestinians have identified the gaps between Israel and the US," he added.
Diskin said the Palestinians prefer negotiations, "but if no progress is made they will turn to the UN in September and say 'we have the mechanisms necessary to gain recognition as a state.'"
"This will place us in a difficult spot," he said.
Diskin said Hamas would try to increase the number of terror attacks emanating from the West Bank, particularly with the use of its infrastructure in Hebron. He said the Islamist group will also continue trying to kidnap Israelis.
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