Is the so-called knife intifadah finally waning? The latest statistics from the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, indicate that after six deadly months, violence is on the decline, even if the situation remains precarious.
According to the Shin Bet, there have been three major attacks on Israelis this month, a significant reduction from the 20 serious attacks it counted in March, 155 in February, 169 in January and 246 in December. There were 78 attacks in October 2015, when the current round of violence began.
Why are the attacks in such steep decline? In large measure, due to the efforts of the Israeli security establishment – on this point, the Shin Bet and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear to agree. But where the government and its security apparatus diverge is on the motivation behind these attacks.
Netanyahu contends that Palestinian government and media outlets are to blame for incitement. The Shin Bet believes the majority of Palestinian and Israeli-Arab attackers have been spurred to action by what it calls “personal issues,” including “dire personal or financial” situations.
Over the weekend, a Shin Bet official further argued that the arrest of the Jewish-Israelis allegedly behind the murderous arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma has contributed to the relative calm of late. (If that is indeed the case, then perhaps the trial of an Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter for shooting a Palestinian terrorist in Hebron might lead to a further drop in the number of attacks.)
The Netanyahu government and Shin Bet concur that Israelis have to remain vigilant in the fight against terror, or a reversal of these positive numbers may occur. Nobody is claiming victory over the knife intifadah just yet, and that’s just as well. Because even when it does end, after all the bloodshed it’s hard to see how anyone comes out looking like a winner.