We have been enjoying some unseasonably warm weather in Israel while dealing with a spate of Palestinian terror attacks.
Yesterday, as U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel, Israelis fought back three different terrorist attacks in three different areas. One attack occurred in Petah Tikvah. The victim, Yonatan Azarihab, was stabbed several times in the shoulder and neck by a Palestinian attacker. Though seriously injured, Azarihab pulled the knife out of his shoulder and used the knife to fight off the attacker. The attacker, a 20 year old Palestinian, died of his wounds. Azarihab is being treated at an Israeli hospital.
In another attack in Jaffa, a 21 year old Palestinian man ran down a a beach promenade stabbing several people in his path. He injured twelve people and killed one. Six of the injured were hospitalized, at least one of whom is in critical condition. A local busker sprang to action by using his guitar to hit the attacker and slow him down before police arrived on the scene and shot the attacker. The attacker killed an American student, Taylor Force, a U.S. military veteran, who was visiting Israel. The Fatah website, which represents one of the strongest factions of the Palestinian authority, praised the attack as the work of a "martyr."
In a third attack, a Palestinian on a motorcycle opened fire on a police vehicle near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. One officer was killed in the attack and a second was seriously injured. Police eventually caught up to the terrorist and killed him.
The current wave of attacks has been ongoing since September 2015. Hundreds of Palestinians have attacked Israelis across Israel. Although many of the attacks have been knife attacks, there have also been shootings, car attacks (where the attacker purposely drives into a group of civilians) and other incidents. Many of the attackers have been killed by nearby bystanders, police forces or others arriving at the scene to fight off the attacks.
The attacks have generally not been condemned by the Palestinian leadership or even by Israeli Arab Knesset members. Many of the attacks have been celebrated and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has praised several of the attackers as "Martyrs."
One has to wonder about the end game for the Palestinians. If they are of the view that the use of this type of violence will push Israel to make significant peace concessions, that would seem to be a mistaken assumption. If anything, the Israeli political landscape has been shifting to the right as a result of these attacks.
A Pew Research Center study released this week reported that close to 50% of Israelis would now support a policy of transferring Israeli Arabs out of Israel. To where? Well maybe that is a corollary of the Palestinian position that the Palestinian state as part of a "two-state solution" should be emptied of its Jews. If a "two-state solution" means that each people gets its own state, many interesting questions arise. If each state has a minority of the other state's people - and provides full rights for that minority (as Israel now does for the Palestinian population), then it seems doubtful that many Israelis would push too hard for the expulsion or transfer from Israel of the Palestinians to the nascent Palestinian state.
But if it is a negotiated condition of a two state solution that Israel uproot any Jewish communities in the territory earmarked for the new Palestinian state and provide the Palestinian state with territory completely free of any Jewish residents, it is understandable that many would view the corollary to be a logical extension of the same premise.
This is the position taken by Israeli Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman of the "Yisrael Beitenu" party, which is currently not part of the governing coalition. Lieberman would argue that this is what President Obama has referred to as "land swaps" where Israel would trade areas within Israel that have primarily Arab populations for areas of the West Bank that have primarily Jewish populations.
Funny enough, the Palestinian Authority view is that Israel should empty the West Bank of Jews as part of a territorial compromise and agree to accept Palestinian refugees into Israel itself rather than their new proposed homeland. Obviously this makes no sense at all. The whole purpose of a "two-state solution" would be that the Palestinians could resolve, completely, the issue of refugees within the borders of their new state. Netanyahu and Lieberman have been criticized for taking this position as racist and intransigent. But it is neither to accept that a two state solution means two states for two peoples.
Some 50% of Israelis apparently reject the premise of a "transfer," according to the study. After all, Israeli Arabs comprise some 20% of Israel's population and are involved in all facets of Israeli life. It is probably also incorrect to interpret the poll result as suggesting that Israelis who claimed to support a transfer would want to deport Arab Israeli citizens, proactively, outside of some type of political deal that created two ethnic nation states with a negotiated population exchange mechanism.
But this latest round of violence has impacted Israeli opinion. As the number of terrorist incidents on civilians within Israel continues to increase, Israeli attitudes towards Palestinians, Israeli and non-Israeli, continue to change for the worse.
Perhaps Palestinian leader Abbas figures that this is the way to force Israel into a deal and to gain international support. But it seems to me that the current round of Palestinian violence has pushed things in the opposite direction.