By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
The latest report of al-Quds Center For Israeli and Palestinian Studies on resistance operations in the West Bank (WB), has received much attention and was widely covered by the media. Covering the first ten months of 2018, it documented 40 shooting incidents, 33 stabbing attacks and attempts, 15 run-over attacks and attempts, 53 explosive devices were either thrown or planted, and 262 Molotov cocktail attacks, leading to the killing of 11 Israelis, and the wounding of 159 others. It has also monitored 3,400 popular resistance operations of various forms. Other news reported that The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has conducted a study stating that the occupation in the WB costs the Israeli treasury around 28 billion shekels (about $7.6 billion).
Actually, the steadfastness and resistance of the Palestinians in WB must receive the media coverage and attention they deserve, especially in an Arabic environment that may waste the Palestine issue in the turmoil of events.
Usually, studies centers issue annual reports (and not after 10 months) to ease the comparison between one year and another, so they can be analyzed, conclusions drawn, and projections provided. Therefore, it was noteworthy that this report was not accompanied by any comparative reading, but despite that, any documentation effort is commendable.
If we want to put these numbers in a comparative analytical context, it is first noted that these figures would have multiplied exponentially if the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah had stopped security coordination with Israel, through which resistance forces are pursued, hundreds of resistance operations are thwarted. People’s anger in WB is suppressed, but the fire is still smoldering under the ashes, being suppressed by the PA, which considers security coordination “sacred.” In late December 2017, Shabak Chief Nadav Argaman disclosed that 400 attacks were foiled in WB, and reports said that the cooperation with the Israeli army, the Israel Police, and the PA, has made effective prevention possible.
Secondly, if we put the resistance action in the past few years under consideration, this year’s resistance is but a continuation, albeit to a lesser degree, of resistance in WB (including east Jerusalem), which escalated in October 2015, when the Jerusalem Intifadah erupted. The first two years of this Intifadah witnessed 3,719 attack, in which 57 Israelis were killed and 416 others wounded. The Shabak acknowledged 1,360 attacks in 2016, and 1,464 in 2017, and that 29 Israelis were killed in 2015, 17 in 2016 and 18 in 2017. Hence, the statistics of al-Quds Center confirm the continuation of the Intifadah spirit in WB, however, the conclusion that the resistance has surged this year is not accurate, neither in term of number of operations, nor in term of Israeli casualties.
It is noted that “lone-wolf” attacks constitute a major part of the resistance activities, thus causing great concern to the Israeli authorities, because it is difficult to take preemptive action against them, and also that Palestinian factions have made tremendous efforts to develop resistance action in the midst of a hard and difficult environment. Avi Issacharoff, Palestinian Affairs analyst in Israel’s Walla! news website, reported that Israeli security forces uncovered about 100 armed cells in WB in 2016, most of them belonging to Hamas. Consequently, Palestinian factions face great challenges in covertly developing resistance action.
Thirdly, the attrition of Israeli strength is a top priority for the resistance action in WB, for surely, resistance causes pressure and confusion to the Israelis, and the disbursement of special budgets to deal with it. However, resistance and attrition still have a long way to go in order to have an impact on the Israeli strategic decision, to force it to withdraw. Hence, resistance forces must not fall into the deceptive feeling of triumph, for the Israelis still view their stay in the WB as being of strategic, security and economic use to them.
Also it is worth noting that although the number of resistance operations gives a sense of pride and high esteem, the term “operation” must be used with prudence and caution. For al-Quds Center report stated that more than 400 operations in ten months led to the killing of 11 Israelis, with a rate of one being killed per 37 “operations,” which means that a lot of these operations have actually failed or were thwarted. May be the Israeli side (according to the Shabak’s reports too) has tended to use such terminology while reporting a high number of attacks in order to prove its capability of thwarting them, and that most of what the Palestinians are doing will fail. May be it is also meant to justify its firm actions and security measures, and their asking for a budget increase to suppress the Palestinian resistance.
In addition, Israel is living its best economic moment, where high rates of growth are recorded. It still views the WB occupation—aside from being to many of them a national and religious mission—a useful economic, political and security investment. The spending of $7 billion or $8 billion on security in WB is not considered a heavy burden, when in 2017 the Israeli budget amounted to $143 billion, its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $348 billion (24 times the size of that of Palestinians), and its GDP per capita rose to about $40 thousand a year (14 fold that of the Palestinians) mirroring Western European countries.
These Israeli expenditures in WB are still considered an affordable investment, if not a profitable one (even if we put aside the Israeli Judaization plan for WB and the effort it deserves), where the PA minimizes the costs of the occupation and does its “dirty” work. These sums and more are being compensated by having 800 thousand settlers reside in WB, where they make use of tens of thousands of dunams and operate hundreds of factories, while the PA ensures their security. The Israeli occupation has direct administrative and security responsibility for 60% of the WB, controls more than 85% of water sources, and at the same time, more than 60% of PA imports come from Israel, and more than 84% of its exports go to Israel, according to the 2017 figures.
Al-Aqsa Intifadah, especially in 2001 and 2002, has succeeded in inflicting damages on the Israeli economy, which recorded negative growth. Tens of thousands of shops closed, a high proportion of Israelis wanted to emigrate and leave the country, while Israeli society suffered insecurity. This situation made Prime Minister Sharon think about unilateral disengagement from WB and GS, and the US to propose the “Roadmap for Peace” plan.
As for these days, if resistance forces want to increase the attrition of Israeli power, there is still much to do in supporting Palestinian steadfastness, the PA must stop security cooperation. However, this level of resistance should not make people live in a state of self-deception. Facts must stay clear so as not to lose the ability to adequately assess the challenges, opportunities, potentials and prospects, so as not to raise hopes too high, thus causing unnecessary frustrations.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 16/11/2018