10/12/15 The situation Gets Worse

by Marc Schulman

Another day and so far there have been three stabbing attacks in Jerusalem (two successful and a third in which case the attacker was killed before he could inflict injury) and one failed attempt in Tel Aviv.. It has become all too routine. Israelis no longer care whether this is or is not a third Intifadah. It is irrelevant, since the reality is that the sense of personal security Israelis felt until recently is gone. The Tel Aviv bubble – if there ever really was one – ended on Thursday, when a terror attack took place in the middle of Tel Aviv. The only question on everybody’s minds is how will this end. Most people are pessimistic and believe the current wave of violence won’t end any time soon.

Until recently I would always have to be the one to initiate political conversations with friends and acquaintances, no longer. Last night I got into a cab and the first thing the cabby (who had no idea who I was), asked what do I think of the current situation. Friends are worried. Everyone I know believes this situation may last for a long time. Last night there was a real fear the circumstances would get totally out of hand, when one of the stabbings one near Kibbutz Gan Shmuel in Central Israel, was carried out by someone identified as an Arab-Israeli. Later, it became clear the attacker was originally a West Bank resident, who was allowed to live in Israel due to the ‘law of unification’ (i.e. his father married an Israeli-Arab women.) The mayor of Umm al-Fahm, the town in which the assailant was living was quick to condemn the attack. Furthermore, the mayor highlighted the fact that the attacker was from the West Bank and not from his town.

Earlier in the day, the mayor of Nazareth (the largest Arab town in Israel) verbally attacked MK Ayman Odeh, Head of the Joint Arab List for fomenting unrest and setting back Arab-Jewish relations for a generation. Members of the Arab List have been holding demonstrations and calling for a strike, often referring to the canard that Israel is plans to change the status quo regarding the Temple Mount. When asked on TV whether they actually believed that fabrication, the Arab Members of Knesset avoided directly answering the question, and refused to say that a change is unlikely. Last night, MK Odeh condemned the attack near Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, realizing the damage this attack will cause to the community he represents.

It’s ironic that just this past Thursday night I attended a conclave at the home of Israel’s President Reuven “Ruby” Riviln focused on how to better integrate Arab-Israelis into the economy. At the reception, before the meeting, I spoke to many of the attendees, Arab-Israeli businessmen, along with some of the leaders of Israeli industry. There was clearly the sense of an elephant in the room. President Rivlin addressed that elephant in his opening remarks, stating that despite what was going on outside, we have to be ever more determined to achieve our goals. Afterward, a number of presentations were given, many of which highlighted the obstacles Arab professionals face obtaining work. After the events of the last few days, I fear these challenges will become worse.

As the stabbings and attempted stabbings go on day after day, Israel has been implementing what one can only describe as clear policy of shooting to kill anyone who attacks with a knife. Almost every one of the attackers has been neutralized with deadly force. For years, some Israeli politicians have been calling for institution of the death penalty for terrorists. So far, the prospect of death does not appear to have deterred any of the attackers.

Polls here show a rise in support for the politicians (such as MK Avigdor Lieberman and Minister of Education Naftali Bennet) who call for taking stronger action against the Arabs. These same polls show the popularity of Prime Minister Netanyahu plummeting.

More than anything else, these polls and my conversations with people on the street show a certain level of despair – not on a personal level, but in the sense that there is no solution. It is clear most Israelis believe that if the creation of a Palestinian state, on more or less the 1967 borders, would end all hostilities forever, they would gladly agree to such an arrangement. However, most Israelis do not believe a permanent end of conflict is the likely result. Rather, Israelis fear the results of returning more land would be the same as the outcome after our withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza– i.e. a new violent neighbor on our border who did not want to live in peace. The fact that Arab-Israelis have joined the latest round of violence does not bode well.

Will this wave of attacks end soon? Will Hamas join in in Gaza and begin firing rockets into Israel? The Israeli press is full of predictions by various “experts” , but in reality, nobody really knows. Two months ago Israel was preoccupied by the theoretical threat that Iran might pose in the future. Today, most Israelis just want to make sure they and their loved ones come home safely every night.