The Intifada of the Loners: Israel Finds Itself in a Bind As the Occupation Continues

Recent Palestinian attacks against Israel suggest a new uprising (intifada) of the loners is on the making to which Israel may have no sufficient response.

The stabbing of several Israeli youth near the Alon Shvut colony in the Occupied West Bank by a Palestinian man, the stabbing of an Israeli soldier on November 10 in Tel Aviv, and the running over of several Israeli citizens in Occupied East Jerusalem that resulted in the death of an infant last week, all indicate that a new intifada or uprising is well underway.

Yet while similar intifadas were marked by popular uprisings throughout the West Bank that disrupted the Israeli status-quo and sense of normalcy, as was the case in the Al Aqsa Intifada of 2000, or in the first intifada of 1987, popular protests that took place in recent days in the West Bank and inside Israel (particularly in the Galilee, where a Palestinian youth was shot several days ago, and in East Jerusalem) have been contained to a significant degree by Israel forces who are well accustomed to popular protests and who fired tear gas canisters on the demonstrators.

The new intifada or uprising, witnessed in recent days, seems to be characterized by its unpredictable nature: attacks can be carried out at any given moment at any location, inside Israel or the West Bank, by loners operating on the loose who are not acting on behalf of a particular Palestinian organization who are using a car or a knife as a weapon of choice. While Israel inflicted a heavy collective punishment on the Palestinians by invading various cities in the West Bank following the wave of suicide bombers who struck inside Israel in 2002, this time it cannot do so as easily. Although Israeli leaders attempt to castigate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a "terrorist wearing a suit and a tie" while hurrying to blame Abbas for recent attacks, if Israel were to invade cities in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is likely to collapse, leaving Israel with the responsibility of administering the lives of 3 million Palestinians, a possibility that Israel has attempted to evade.

Furthermore, even if Israel were to crack down on various organizations, it cannot prevent loners from carrying out attacks against Israelis due to their frustration with the current stalemate and with the 46 year long occupation, as those who wish to make their way to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv despite the existence of the wall encircling Palestinian cities and towns, can certainly do so and as some of the recent attacks have been carried out by Palestinians living inside Israel.

The new intifada therefore places Israel with a new challenge: How can one continue the occupation of the West Bank and deprive Palestinians from rights and yet prevent lone attacks from taking place? How can one prevent stabbings carried out by individuals when no organization stands behind them? Furthermore, although Palestinian President Abbas reached out to Israel saying he seeks a genuine peace agreement with Israel with East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu continues to build settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Netanyahu demands that Abbas will recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a demand that Abbas has refused as this would mean that Palestinian refugees will not be allowed to return to their homes inside Israel since this may endanger a Jewish majority.

As international pressure is growing against Israel, due to Sweden’s recognition of a Palestinian state and due to similar initiatives in the British Parliament and an upcoming vote in the Spanish Parliament, Israel finds itself increasingly unpopular in Europe although Israel still enjoys wide support in the US. Without offering Palestinians a future, and lacking the ability to deal with lone attackers, Israel may face a wave of terrorism for which it has no sufficient response besides inflicting collective punishment on Palestinians due to its frustration. If the solution to a conflict is neither a peaceful compromise nor a violent crackdown, Israel find itself exhausted of options. It remains to be seen how Israel will contain the new intifada carried out by lone attackers, whether this is even possible, and what kind of solution it can grant to its own citizens who fear for their safety, as it continues to occupy the West Bank Palestinians see no horizon that includes freedom from a military rule or political independence.

Joshua Tartakovsky is an Israeli-American independent journalist and a graduate of Brown University and LSE. You can follow him on Twitter @J_Tartakovsky and contact him via his website

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