Lone-wolf terrorism has becom a new component of Palestinian society. No longer is it just about desperate and frustrated kids, mostly from Jerusalem, who take a knife or a pair of scissors and go out looking for death. Now, young men and women, from all over the West Bank, are perpetrating terror attacks that constitute an armed struggle.
Terror cannot exist in the long term without support from the society from which in emerges and in whose name it operates. Lately, it has become more and more apparent that Palestinian society, on all levels, is giving lone-wolf terrorism a warm embrace, and maintaining its momentum.
President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership justified the wave of terror as "muqawama sha'abiye," which is Arabic for "popular resistance." This has been heard in statements of support and published documents regarding the deaths of the supposed "shahids" or "martyrs," and in support of their struggle.
The "shahids" are looked up to as heroes, and their families are entitled to financial benefits. In cities and villages, full color posters with their pictures are distributed; Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) are quick to print out these posters and co-opt the "heroes."
The funerals of these "martyrs" include escorts fit for a king - accompanied by an armed and uniformed honor guard and surrounded by thousands of supporters chanting slogans supporting the "struggle." There are rallies about once a week on university campuses in support of the "heroes." On top of this, there is incitement on official and social media, about which reams have already been written.
The glue holding the divided Palestinian society and government together is the collective feelings both of intense hatred towards Israel and spiteful happiness after each attack. This is the driving force behind these lone wolf attacks, which also creates the image of a popular uprising, even if a large part of it is emotional. Therefore, the situation can be described as an intifada, although it has been conducted, so far, without an end goal.
This feeling of hatred by the Palestinians has been traced by many psychologists and sociologists to the rejection of Israel and the occupation, and their feelings of rage which manifest themselves as violence and grant legitimacy to terror. In this kind of athmosphere, there is no chance that Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinians leader will condemn terror, let alone call for an end to violence. Quite the opposite: The atmosphere of unity only encourages escalation. The collective ethos may spin the wheel of violence and, and lead – even against the leadership's wishes – to armed conflict.
In a situation as complicated and complex as this, there are no easy solutions. Therefore, people are looking for things to blame – like incitement, al-Aqsa, the Islamic movement, undocumented workers, people breaking through the security fence, Mahmoud Abbas, and even ISIS. It's not by accident that that no one is blaming the occupation or the reality of Palestinian society in the West Bank. In fact, it's impossible to blame the incitement on the Palestinian education system, as there has been a general teachers' strike in the West Bank for more than a month.
The decisions by the Cabinet to close the holes in the security fence, arrest undocumented workers, close radio stations, and demolish the houses of terrorists are a Band-Aid fix to show the Israeli public, and are basically a recycling of similar decisions made in the past.
In a complicated situation, there needs to be a coordinated and systemic solution – in terms of security, politics, economics, and public diplomacy – which should have started five months ago. For instance, on the topic of transferring terrorists' bodies to their families, the Defense Minister approved the transfer, while the Minister of Public Security stopped it.
One can take comfort in the optimistic assessment that the third intifada won't continue forever. The problem is that even if a relaxed state is reached, the Netanyahu government is set in its ideology to negate any diplomatic solution, which might leave the Palestinians without even a modicum of hope.
Therefore, any truce will only be a short timeout before the eruption of the fourth intifada. And the cycle goes on.