Analysis: With an empty diplomatic toolbox, the Palestinians feel terror is the only thing they have left. Israeli punitive measures, as harsh as they may be, won’t reduce the amount of hatred towards Israel or the motivation to carry out terror attacks, with lone-wolf terrorism becoming the leading pattern of action.
The profile of Alaa Kabha, the terrorist who killed two soldiers and wounded two others in a ramming attack Friday, isn’t unusual among young Palestinians: His beliefs, his feelings, and especially his hatred and desire to take revenge against Israel in general and against the occupation in particular, are no different from those of many young Palestinians in Bethlehem, Nablus, Hebron or Gaza.
In the reality of the territories, he too is disheartened, frustrated, hopeless. So he needed no orders from Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Fatah to murder soldiers, nor did he need the protests marking 100 days since US President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem announcement or the raging incitement on Palestinian social media.
The toolbox of the Palestinian diplomatic struggle is empty: They have no Arab or European support, and the United Nations, as they see it, has become a center of useless verbal wrangling. Trump’s US, since the decision to relocate the embassy, has become a real enemy, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia isn’t really interested in them.
Furthermore, they have lost all hope of making any diplomatic progress with Israel, especially since the Right’s rise to power. Instead, they see a reality of a binational state of animosity and alienation taking shape before their eyes—a recipe for an escalation of the conflict and an acceleration of terror.
The only thing the Palestinians are left with, as far as they’re concerned, is the toolbox of terror. While the Shin Bet, the IDF and the Palestinian Authority have been making successful efforts to thwart and prevent organized terror, they are incapable of thwarting the sporadic lone-wolf attacks, which have become a common pattern of action in recent years.
Alaa Kabha, like many terrorists operating on their own, needed neither planning nor weapons or partners. He likely made the decision to kill as soon as he spotted the soldiers. According to Shin Bet reports, there have been about 400 attempts to carry out terror attacks in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem in the past three months, and they have all been defined as lone-wolf acts.
Lone-wolf terrorism, which has become the leading pattern in recent years, is gaining popularity among the Palestinians in light of the support it receives from the Palestinian public and leadership. Shortly after Friday’s attack, the terrorist already entered the dubious list of Palestinian “heroes”: A poster was distributed in his honor and the murder he committed was praised and glorified.
After he is likely sentenced him to several life terms by the military court, he will join several thousand jailed Palestinian terrorists and a list of more than 600,000 Palestinians who have passed through Israeli prison gates since 1967. The PA, for its part, will follow its own rules and grant him and his family members a salary and an allowance.
Let there be no illusions: The Israeli punitive measures, as harsh as they may be—for example, proposals to destroy Hamas or dissolve the PA and impose economic sanctions—won’t reduce the amount of hatred towards Israel or the level of motivation to keep carrying terror attacks. Lone-wolf terrorism is taking place while the fragile Palestinian society goes through far-reaching changes: The governance in the PA territories is weak, the refugee camps are flooded with weapons and nearing anarchy, and Hamas is taking over the civil centers of power (especially in the universities and professional associations).
Add that to the economic trouble, the soaring unemployment rate among educated young Palestinians, the rift with the settlers and the ongoing Israeli annexation policy, and you’ve got a series of processes that are shortening the fuse leading to a renewed outburst of the powder keg in the territories.
Dr. Ronni Shaked, Yedioth Ahronoth’s former correspondent and commentator on Palestinian affairs, is a research fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University.