“Naftali Bennett’s security response is worrying”

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

The streets of Tel Aviv, Israel, were the scene of chaos on Thursday, April 7. A man, a Palestinian 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 several-hour manhunt.

This attack is the fourth in the country in less than three weeks. The black series started on March 22 whena Bedouin of Israeli descent killed four people with knives and a rambling car in the city of Beer Sheva, in the south of the country. On March 27, two Israeli Arab cousins ​​opened fire in the coastal town of Hadera. The two investigations soon established links between the attackers and the Islamic State group (OH DEAR).

The last two attacks on March 29 in the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Thursday, were committed by two Palestinians from Jenin in the occupied West Bank. An area considered a stronghold of Palestinian armed factions.

At least 14 people were killed in these four attacks. This toll makes it the worst wave of attacks since the knife intifadaa series of stabbings that killed an estimated 270 people, Israelis and Palestinians, in 2015 and 2016.

Faced with this violence, the government of Naphtali Bennett responded firmly by announcing Friday that it would give “carte blanche” to the security forces to “defeat” this “new wave of terror”.

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

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

Hugh Lovatt there are several factors that can explain this situation and it is quite difficult at this stage to determine if any of them have prevailed. Presumably it is a combination of individual, local and religious reasons.

The March 22 attack was perpetrated by an Israeli Bedouin in the Negev region. However, this area has been the scene of conflict with the government for several months. The Bedouin demand the recognition of certain villages that the state would like to relocate. Impossible to know what really triggered it, but this context certainly plays a role.

Likewise, it is difficult to pin down the precise motivations of the Palestinian attackers, but the causes of their anger can be multiple: West Bank colonization continues and about 15 Palestinians have been killed under various conditions since the beginning of the year, both in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Moreover, the attackers are from the Jenin region, in the northern West Bank, a stronghold of resistance. Repeated attacks by Israeli troops inevitably have an impact on public opinion. If you add an individual factor to that – for example being humiliated when crossing the border or being refused entry somewhere – it can ignite the gunpowder.

In Beer Sheva and Hadera, the attackers are linked to Islamic State. But the latest attack claimed by the group in the region dates back to 2017. What does it represent in the region today, and could it predict a resurgence?

In reality, the attackers in question are radicalized individuals who are inspired by the ideology of the Islamic State group and who identify with this movement. But according to the various elements available to us, they received no outside help. So no, I don’t see these attacks as evidence of a resurgence of IS in the region.

You should know that the group is not completely absent from the region, but it is a very fringe player. It is also completely impossible that these attacks are the result of an alliance between IS and Palestinian movements. It is not for nothing that the Palestinian groups have no interest in the appearance of IS in the region. It is the same on the Hamas side. IS is considered an enemy force.

In short, all of them – Israel, the Palestinian authorities and Hamas – fight against the expansion of IS in the region. The only place the Islamist group can find allies is in Gaza, and that remains very limited.

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

Secure. Already because this series of attacks will clearly gain in importance in public opinion. Especially since Thursday’s took place in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv, on a very busy thoroughfare, the day before the weekend.

It must be remembered that during the twelve years that he was in power, Benjamin Netanyahu has always positioned itself as a protector of the Israeli state and has often bragged about its security assets. Due to the ricochet effect, these attacks therefore create the impression of a security failure for the Naftali Bennett coalition. We know that other members of Bennett’s coalition are reluctant to switch sides. These events can therefore give them a boost. It is no coincidence that this last Friday reacted very decisively, giving the security forces carte blanche.

By 2021, clashes during this period of Ramadan had led to an 11-day war between Hamas and Israel. Do you fear that these attacks will lead to a further escalation of tensions in the region?

In my view, these attacks are not surprising. They are part of a cycle of violence that has been going on for years, with attacks coming in waves and tension subsiding after a few weeks. This is just proof that the regional status quo doesn’t work in the long run.

Indeed, in this particular case, everything is also made worse by the arrival of the Ramadan period, a time that is always conducive to tension. But in my opinion the greatest danger is that these attacks will lead to others, in a 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 will to escalate, he is weakened and strategically lost. Admittedly, he and Islamic Jihad welcomed Thursday’s attack but generally stayed in the background. And Mahmoud Abbas himself condemned the attacks, which is a rarity.

However, Naftali Bennett’s security response worries me. He decided to limit travel between the West Bank and Israel. On the other hand, if he goes even further and bans them from the Al-Aqsa mosque in the middle of Ramadan, it could intensify regional tensions and set the gunpowder on fire.

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