‘Naftali Bennett’s security response is alarming’

At least three people were killed on Thursday in a shooting in Tel Aviv. This is the fourth fatal attack in Israel in less than three weeks. Enough to fear an outbreak of violence as the country celebrates Ramadan and Easter.

The streets of Tel Aviv, Israel were the scene of chaos on Thursday, April 7. A Palestinian man from the West Bank opened fire on Dizengoff Street in the heart of the city, killing at least three people. He was eventually killed by security forces after a manhunt that lasted several hours.

This is the fourth attack in the country in less than three weeks. The dark streak began on March 22 when an Israeli-born Bedouin stabbed four people to death in the southern city of Beersheba. On March 27, two of his Arab Israeli cousins ​​opened fire in the coastal town of Hadera. Both investigations quickly put forward links between the attackers and the Islamic State.

The two most recent attacks took place on March 29 in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Thursday by Palestinians from Jenin in the occupied West Bank. An area considered a stronghold for armed Palestinian factions.

In total, these four attacks killed at least 14 people. The toll is the worst wave of attacks since the Knife Intifada, a series of stabbing attacks that killed some 270 people, Israelis and Palestinians, in 2015 and 2016.

In the face of this violence, Naftali Bennett’s government responded firmly, announcing on Friday that it would give “carte blanche” to security forces to “defeat” this “new wave of terrorism.”

Hugh Lovatt, a specialist on Middle East affairs at the European Council on Foreign Relations, based in London, traces to France 24 the origin of these attacks. According to him, they are part of the “cycle of violence” that has been going on for years in the region.

France 24: How do you explain the increase in attacks in Israel over the past three weeks ?

Hugh Lovat : There are many factors that can explain this situation and it is very difficult, at this point, to determine if one of them is prevalent. It is assumed to be a combination of individual, local, and religious causes.

The March 22 attack was carried out by an Israeli Bedouin in the Negev region. However, this area has been the scene of conflict with the government for several months. Bedouins demand recognition of certain villages that the state wants to relocate. It’s impossible to know what was really exciting, but this context certainly plays a role.

Likewise, it is difficult to determine the exact motives of the Palestinian attackers, but the reasons for their anger can be manifold: the colonization of the West Bank continues and there are about fifteen Palestinians killed in various circumstances, both in Jerusalem and in the West. Bank since the beginning of the year. Moreover, the attackers are from the Jenin area in the northern West Bank, a stronghold of the resistance. There is no doubt that the repeated attacks by the Israeli forces have an impact on public opinion. If you add a single factor to it – being humiliated when crossing a border or being denied access somewhere, for example – it can ignite the powder.

In Beersheba and Hadera, the attackers are linked to the Islamic State. However, the last attack claimed by the group in the region dates back to 2017. What does it represent today in the region and could it herald its re-emergence? ?

In fact, the attackers in question are extremist individuals inspired by the ideology of the Islamic State and who sympathize with this movement. But according to the various items we had, they did not receive any outside help. So, no, I don’t see these attacks as evidence of a resurgence of the Islamic State in the region.

You should know that the group is not completely absent in the area, but it is a very marginal player. It is also highly unlikely that these attacks were the result of any alliance between ISIS and Palestinian movements. For good reason, Palestinian groups have no interest in the emergence of ISIS in the region. On the part of Hamas, the same. The Islamic State is considered a hostile force.

In short, everyone – Israel, the Palestinian authorities and Hamas – are working to combat the expansion of ISIS in the region. The only place the Islamist group can find allies is in Gaza, and that is still very limited.

Naftali Bennett’s government lost its majority in the Knesset on Wednesday. Could these various attacks lead to Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power?

Of course. Indeed, because this series of attacks will gain obvious importance in public opinion. Especially since Thursday took place in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv, in a very busy artery, the day before the weekend.

It must be remembered that during his twelve years in power, Benjamin Netanyahu has always positioned himself as the protector of the State of Israel and has often boasted of his security assets. Through the recoil effect, these attacks give the impression of a security failure for Naftali Bennett’s alliance. We know that other members of the Bennett Alliance are reluctant to change their positions. Thus these events can give them momentum. It is no coincidence that the latter reacted very firmly on Friday, giving carte blanche to the security forces.

In 2021, clashes during this period of Ramadan led to the outbreak of an 11-day war between Hamas and Israel. Do you fear that these attacks will escalate tensions in the region? ?

In my opinion, these attacks are not surprising. They are part of a cycle of violence that has been going on for years in which the attacks come in waves and the tension subsides on its own after a few weeks. This is just evidence that the regional status quo is not working in the long run.

In this particular case, everything is already exacerbated by the advent of Ramadan, a time that always leads to tension. But in my opinion, the main danger is that these attacks will lead to others, in some kind of terrorist mimicry, until the situation calms down on its own.

Last year, Hamas went to war precisely because it wanted to get out of this status quo. This time he has no desire to escalate, he is weak and strategically lost. It is true that he and Islamic Jihad welcomed Thursday’s attack, but they generally remained in the background. Mahmoud Abbas himself condemned the attacks, which are rare.

However, Naftali Bennett’s security response worries me. He decided to limit travel between the West Bank and Israel. If he goes any further, and prevents them from reaching the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the middle of Ramadan, it may, on the other hand, increase regional tensions and set fire to gunpowder.

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