Wednesday's two hit-and-run terrorist attacks were carried out in the framework of efforts by Palestinian Islamist elements to affect a change in their favor in the status quo on the Temple Mount, and to prevent the Judaization of Jerusalem.
Unlike in the previous intifadas, however, the violence this time doesn't appear to be orchestrated by the terror organizations; instead, the mood that is being stirred up in the streets is offering religious inspiration to individuals acting on their own – so-called local initiatives.
These attacks, however, are not planned initiatives; they are fired-up passions that are being translated into acts of violence carried out not in keeping with orders or instruction from an organized entity, but in keeping with the passions of the attacker, who chooses the location, the means and the method himself. And thus the high number of hit-and-run attacks, which can be readily carried out by residents of the united Jerusalem, where Jews and Arabs live among one another.
One should note an important fact: The attacks in Jerusalem, in contrast to the violence throughout Judea and Samaria, receive Mahmoud Abbas' explicit blessing. The Palestinian Authority leader uses the alleged danger posed to the Al-Aqsa Mosque as a means of promoting his political strategy, which is aimed at achieving international recognition of a Palestinian state in line with the 1967 borders and the partitioning of Jerusalem in a manner that affords Palestinian control of the so-called Holy Basin.
The third component making up the fuel vapors in Jerusalem is the provocation on the part of activist from the radical, nationalist right or the nationalist-religious camp. Under the guise of a demand – in itself legitimate – to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, these extremists are fanning the fires among the Palestinians and giving them an opportunity to prove that the Temple Mount is supposedly in danger. They are doing so intentionally.
The Jewish extremists are trying to spark a widespread conflagration that will prompt the army and police into expelling all Muslims from the Temple Mount area and eliminating the opposition to Jewish settlement activity in Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. This demand is being accompanied by a second one that isn't voiced out loud: "Deal with them with a firm hand" – or in other words, kill Arab rioters.
Israel's government, which wants to prove that it preserves freedom of worship in united Jerusalem, and doesn't want a widespread conflagration that would mobilize the entire Muslim world against us, has relayed explicit instructions both to the Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces to avoid killing Palestinian rioters – despite the fact that the rioters are doing all they can to drag the IDF into killing and, thereby, creating a few more martyrs to help spark a large regional flare-up.
The leaderships of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, along with Salafi organizations in the Gaza Strip and those that exist underground in the West Bank, are only hoping for corpses and funerals – just like the right-wing extremists, who are hoping for a war to end all wars, from which the IDF and Israel at large will emerge victorious in the conflict with the Muslim world, and gone, too, will be the vision of two states for two peoples.
It's hard to believe, but hiding behind the hit-and-run attack, which appears to have been the act of a man driven insane by religion, are the diabolical strategies, theological in essence, of Palestinian and Jewish extremists.
This is the essence of the third intifada, which we are currently experiencing. Jerusalem's harsh and violent clashes, which are claiming lives, are overshadowing the Palestinians' modus operandi in Judea and Samaria, which exists but is not yet claiming lives. This method of operation is expressed in attempts to deploy small IEDs, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and attempted knife attacks on security forces.
Why then are the flames burning so high in Jerusalem, whereas we barely hear anything about events in the West Bank? The reason is that Jews and Palestinians don't come into direct contact with one another in the West Bank - aside from on the roads.
Another reason: Mahmoud Abbas' security forces operate throughout the West Bank and prevent flare-ups. This is exactly what the IDF and Shin Bet security service do, and they are always stationed in potential hot spots. The Israel Police's combat operations in Jerusalem take place under much tougher conditions, in an urban area where they are exposed, in which it is easy to organize a terror attack, and where there's nothing that comes between the attackers and their victims. And the Palestinian Islamists – constantly fired-up, not only by Hamas and the other Islamist terror groups, but also by Abbas – take full advantage of this fact.
Such circumstances require an effort, first and foremost, to affect a separation between Jews and Palestinians, in Jerusalem . Yes, the Jerusalem we insist on saying is united, and yet is actually home to active conflict between Jews and Arabs. There's a need at this point in time to set up roadblocks and checkpoints, particularly around the seam line areas; this will prevent or hinder cars and extremists from both sides from coming into contact with one another.
There's a need now to stop the pretense of volatile freedom of worship on and around the Temple Mount, and thus soothe the passions somewhat. These measures must be explained to both the Palestinians and the Israelis.
After the fires have died down, additional measures can be implemented to keep things quiet in the long term. Yes, an iron first is required right now to maintain security in Jerusalem; but it must be used wisely, so that the efforts to douse the fires don't cause a bigger blaze.
We need to recognize the fact that many Palestinians have more than one motive to kill Jews, apart from the religious one. Wednesday's attacker, too, was probably acting under the influence of a family member, who was previously detained in Israel and released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal. When personal motives are boosted by religious fervor, it is very difficult to apprehend or identify the perpetrator. This combination, by the way, is the secret of Islamic State's success, and the motivation for its savagery.
Wednesday's hit-and-run incident is also proof that all those who opposed the deal to release the terrorists in exchange for Gilad Shalit on the grounds that the move would undermine the security of Israel's citizens were right.
Now, however, is not the time for protests and long-term conclusions. Now is the time to quell the third intifada before it gets out of control; and to this end, Israel's security forces and the Americans must pressure Abbas into stopping to try to take advantage of this flare-up for his own purposes.