Wave of terrorism in Israel defies a clear narrative

By contrast, the motives of the two West Bank Palestinians “have more to do with the occupation and the injustices that they’re going through, not that that justifies anything”, said Fahoum-Jayoussi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel.

“But why now?” she added. “What has changed exactly at this time?”

To some, the timing of the violence is hardly a surprise, and was even long foretold.

Next weekend, the religious festivals of Passover, Ramadan and Easter will overlap in a rare convergence that will drive unusually high numbers of Jewish, Muslim and Christian worshippers to the Old City of Jerusalem. That raises the risk of confrontations between Muslims and Jews and heightens long-standing Palestinian resentment about the restrictions on access to and control of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Israeli police and army forces hunt for a gunman after a shooting attack in Tel Aviv on April 7.

Israeli police and army forces hunt for a gunman after a shooting attack in Tel Aviv on April 7.Credit:Getty Images

While groups such as Hamas, the militant Islamist movement based in Gaza, have released several recent statements inciting against Israel and praising the wave of terrorism, Israeli officials do not believe the group is seeking to organise its own operations, according to the senior Israeli military officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity to comply with Israeli military protocol.

Given this context, the specific timing of the violence has perplexed experienced analysts, even if they agree that the inherent instability of life in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza always makes violence possible.

Whoever “has identified a pattern or a reason to explain ‘why now’ and ‘why this way’ is just hallucinating,” said Ehud Yaari, a prominent Israeli analyst of Palestinian affairs. “The most important element is how random it is.”

But to many Palestinians, the structural reasons behind the violence are obvious, even if these specific attacks and their perpetrators lack a clear unifying narrative.

Although Israel’s recent piecemeal concessions to Palestinians have improved life in small ways, the most fundamental Palestinian aspiration – a sovereign state – remains remote. The Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, opposes Palestinian sovereignty and has ruled out peace negotiations during his tenure.

Bennett’s government has announced it will construct thousands of new buildings within Israeli settlements in the West Bank, entrenching Israel’s 55-year occupation of the territory. It still maintains a two-tier legal system there – one for Palestinians and one for Israeli setters – and still restricts Palestinian movement within parts of it. With Egypt, Israel also still enforces a blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“For Israelis, the occupation is invisible,” said Nour Odeh, a Palestinian political analyst and a former spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority. But for Palestinians, “it’s a dead end everywhere you look”, she said.

“Of course, Palestinians will welcome improvements to their standards of living,” Odeh added. “But they’re not going to forget they’re occupied.”

A recent summit meeting in the Negev desert between four Arab foreign ministers and their Israeli and American counterparts also exacerbated a feeling of hopelessness among many Palestinians.

The meeting was the first diplomatic gathering of so many Arab dignitaries on Israeli soil and was held near the grave of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. It was also near land central to a continuing ownership dispute between Bedouin families and the Israeli state – a case that, to young Palestinians, has become emblematic of their wider predicament.

For many Palestinians, this combination of factors made the meeting a scene of “absolute humiliation”, Odeh said. “I don’t think anyone in Palestine didn’t see those images and get angry.”


In addition, a small minority of young Palestinians may increasingly turn to violence because of their growing anger at the Palestinian leadership, analysts said.

Initially seen as the government of a state-in-waiting, the Palestinian Authority is now considered by a majority of Palestinians, polling suggests, as a byword for corruption.

The authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, is seen as increasingly autocratic. He cancelled Palestinian elections last March, nominally because Israel would not permit Palestinians to vote in Jerusalem but also because, privately, he feared losing, according to people familiar with his thinking.

“The great majority of the younger generation have lost confidence in every Palestinian institution,” said Yaari, the analyst.

Young Palestinians see “that the Palestinian national struggle is going nowhere, and it’s led by people that they don’t trust”, he added. “So some of them – not too many, but some of them – decide to take a revolver and do something with it.”

The New York Times

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