East Talpiot attack inspired by Ramallah, imitated Berlin
Analysis: The Palestinian Authority started a blitz against the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and threatened violent repercussions; while it's not yet clear if Abbas and Erekat's pronouncements directly influenced the truck driving terrorist, we can certainly surmise that they set the timing; similar attacks in Europe provided a template to copy.
The vehicular attack on Sunday in which four soldiers were killed in East Talpiot is the continuation of a wave of isolated, spontaneous or partially planned terrorist attacks that began in that same border neighborhood in Jerusalem—the rock throwing that led to the death of 64-year-old Alexander Levlovich in September 2015.
The security services term this "popular terrorism." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas prefers the whitewashed term "popular opposition." This allows him, in his public speeches, to call on Palestinians to refrain from using firearms and at the same time legitimize—and even encourage—throwing stones and Molotov cocktails and vehicular attacks in which many Israelis are also killed and wounded.
The "popular resistance" serves Abbas and Saeb Erekat well and carries out its purpose: It reinforces the Palestinian issue in the consciousness of the international media and helps the Palestinian "political intifada" strategy, as it creates a sense of urgency on the international scene.
Against this background, it's important to lay out three facts that aid our understanding of the timing and method of the terrorist attack on Sunday:
1. Last weekend, the Palestinian Authority executed a media blitz against the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The campaign was designed to discourage US President-elect Donald Trump, whose people have already begun checking out the technical details.
Abbas made a preemptive strike. He instructed Palestinian preachers, in their sermons last Friday in mosques, to upgrade the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem from a political matter to a religious principle that Muslims from all over the world are commanded to resist, meaning that it's grounds for jihad.
And that's not all—Abbas himself and Saeb Erekat spoke publicly and threatened a violent explosion if Trump's intentions are realized and even received substantial assistance from American Secretary of State Kerry who was interviewed by CBS on Friday and warned of "an absolute explosion in the region" if the embassy were moved. A Jordanian governmental minister added his own threats.
Since the truck driver was killed, it will be hard to know for certain if the incitement initiated by Abbas was the direct motive for the terrorist attack, but it is absolutely possible to conclude that it created the inspiration and determined the timing.
2. The vehicular attack in Berlin before Christmas and the one in Nice on last Bastille Day apparently created a model to imitate in the minds of fanatic Muslims. Netanyahu confirmed this and said that the terrorist was a supporter of ISIS according to all the signs.
A heavy truck is an available and deadly means that doesn't require special preparation. In Israel, as in Europe, many drivers of such heavy trucks are Muslims, some of them extremely devoted in their faith, but so long as they haven't committed any crimes, they enjoy freedom of action. They have complete access to their victims. Even if a police checkpoint had stopped the truck driver on Sunday in Jerusalem, he would probably have been allowed to continue on his way.
3. The neighborhood of East Talpiot, on the Jerusalem seam of the Green line, is a dangerous place. This fact must be taken into account when planning visits or events in the area. Explanations about the incredible view and the surroundings could be given instead for a place that is not so easily accessible via major transport routes.
This is true not only about the promenade in East Talpiot, but also about other places at a sensitive time. We can reduce the damage of spontaneous "attacks of inspiration" by deterrence, but also with proper risk assessment and management.
The initial investigation by the commanders of the Officers' Training School and that of the investigators at the site indicate that the cadets acted precisely as would be expected of them. This can be seen in the amount of bullets that pierced the truck's windshield. If all the cadets there had fired, the mass of bullets would have created mass carnage.