Ron Ben-Yishai

An intifada of the mind

Op-ed: In the face of spontaneous terrorism, Israel has no intelligence, deterrence, or military targets; the government has no diplomatic or military means to end this intifada.

The spontaneous “intifada of the young” that we are in the middle of is different from all the conflicts Israel has experienced since its founding and even before that.



There is no single motivation for the young people who go out to stab, run over, and shoot sporadically. The success of one or two terrorists is disseminated and empowered within minutes on social media networks and mass media outlets, becoming a model for imitation. There terrorists also have many modi operandi. They work alone and in pairs, using knives, scissors, IEDs, and improvised weapns. Anything goes. This chaotic model is very difficult to thwart, and stopping an attack is random, because someone encountering a terrorist is not always an armed security guard.


Anything goes: knife and contents of teenage attacker's bag
Anything goes: knife and contents of teenage attacker's bag


Yishai Montgomery, who on Tuesday struck the terrorist in Jaffa in the head with a guitar, is an example. Yonatan Azrihav of Petah Tikva, who pulled the knife from his neck and plunged it into the terrorist, did not practice and did not know such a thing could happen to him. They acted instinctively.


In both previous intifadas, the IDF and intelligence community responded with deterrence, intelligence, and offensive military action. Intelligence made it possible to thwart attacks; deterrence made the Palestinian population and leadership rein in terror operatives; and the military action contributed to both intelligence and deterrence. That’s how the second intifada (and the first, to a large extent) was ultimately overcome.



Photo: Eli Mendelbaum
Photo: Eli Mendelbaum


In the current intifada, there is no intelligence, no deterrence, and no targets or objectives for offensive military action. There is no deterrence because the methods we have already used and the “iron fist” offered by Lieberman have been exhausted. They are no longer effective. The young Palestinians simply do not care in many cases about what might happen to their families, and they’re not “prepared to die”. They want to die.


Against this, Israel has no means or diplomatic or military method that can put an end to this intifada within a few weeks or month. At most, Jerusalemites are praying for a miracle to “dampen" it. We must admit that in the face of this intifada, we Israelis are helpless at the moment. There may not be hundreds of dead and thousands of wounded like in the second intifada, but it’s not possible to continue a daily routine and live without reasonable personal security over time.


What’s worse, the spontaneous youth intifada in its current pattern could in a moment, in the flash of one incident, it become a general armed popular intifada that would include Fatah’s Tanzim, whose members are armed.


In such a situation, we must dismantle the pattern of terror into its components and try to find a response for each element. If only it were possible to block the Palestinian social media networks and the Palestinian and Arab media outlets, which are overflowing with incitement. It’s nearly impossible.


Palestinian incitement: terror attacks portraye as heroic acts
Palestinian incitement: terror attacks portraye as heroic acts


An attack of the mind is therefore necessary in an attempt to convince the Palestinians that the spontaneous terrorism is not an act of heroism, but rather an act of foolishness. It’s possible, even in a society that sanctifies the martyr and provides a halo of courage to his or her personal despair or mental disorder.


Abbas and Fatah leaders can order an end to incitement in schools and the media, but Israel needs to offer them a deal that will encourage them to take such steps. Israel could release Fatah prisoners, who have been sitting Israeli prisons for many years and announce a freeze on building settlements outside of consensus settlement blocs.


Israel must make a concession to the Palestinian leadership so that they are motivated to tell their youth to stop destroying their futures and dreams.


Israel could also approach local leaders in Jerusalem, where the PA is almost nonexistent, and in tandem with teachers offer incentives to them to convince their youth to stop carrying out attacks.


The intelligence services can undertake greater efforts to foil attacks. The fact that most terrorists use improvised weapons indicates that there is welding shop or a garage where they are crafting such weapons. The Shin Bet can reach those locations, if it makes an effort.


More than anything –avoid forceful measures that will only increase despair and anger among the youth and bring older people out to the Palestinian street for a full-on popular uprising that would exact much heavier price..


One last thing: If Israel does not find a way to provide security to its citizens in light of the wave of terror, it needs to at least give them "a sense of security" by increasing security forces in public places. Such a step would accomplish two objectives: It will encourage terrorists to confront armed individuals, who are able to confront them. It will cause citizens to leave their homes out of a sense, perhaps illusory, of being safe.


This intifada is motivated by psychological, religious, and cultural factors. This is an intifada whose generator is, in short, of the mind. It must also be thwarted this way.


פרסום ראשון: 03.09.16, 18:18
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