ANALYSIS Terrorist or Petty Criminal Run Amok?

Neighbors offer contradictory views of Hussam Duwiyat, the perpetrator behind the bulldozer attack.

During the years prior to the Six-Day War, divided Jerusalem was rife with the phenomenon of the "mad Jordanian": A soldier from the Arab Legion suddenly and with no apparent reason began taking shots at civilians on the Israeli side of the borders.

The Jordanians said that the man was crazy and in that way absolved themselves from any responsibility for his acts. Hussam Duwiyat, the terrorist who ran amok with a bulldozer in the middle of Jerusalem - and his neighbor, Ala Abu-Dahim, who murdered eight students at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva four months ago - appear to be a Palestinian incarnation of the same modus operandi.

The Shin Bet security service agents who arrived at the home of the terrorist's family in Sur Baher in East Jerusalem, are now looking for clues as to the motive behind the deed. They will try to find out when was the last time Duwiyat visited a mosque, and whether he heard there unusual words of incitement against Israel. Some of the terrorists who carried out attacks in recent years of their own volition, and with no links to any organization, had been driven to take action out of deep religious feelings.

The neighbors of the murderer Wednesday had contradictory observations to give the press about his character - from descriptions that he was "a regular guy" to calling him a petty criminal, but they all agreed that he did not regularly go to mosque.

Perhaps he was upset because of some personal experience, a quarrel with his Israeli supervisor at work or a random insult from a policeman. The probe into the attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva did not reveal any links between the killer and any organization. The shooter, Ala Abu-Dahim, was a born-again former criminal. His family said that he was shocked by the photographs of Palestinian civilians killed in the Gaza Strip during the Israel Defense Force's operation "Hot Winter," which ended several days prior to the attack.

This time around, the Gaza Strip is calm, but it seems that not every killer needs an immediate incentive.

During the past five years the security forces, primarily the Shin Bet, have had impressive success. The number of Israelis killed as a result of Palestinian terrorism dropped from 426 in 2002 to only 13 last year. Whoever argues that it is not possible to win decisively in the asymmetric warfare against terrorism, will have to agree that in the West Bank Israel has achieved this to the maximum degree possible.

But the two latest outrages in Jerusalem, in which one person attacks, is something for which an early warning based on intelligence is almost impossible. When the murderer is a lone terrorist, with no infrastructure backing him, and not having spoken about it, it is hard to stop him. In Wednesday's incident, even the murder weapon did not prove to be a problem, as Duwiyat was an employee of a construction firm, the regular operator of a bulldozer.

The Arabs of East Jerusalem carry blue identity cards (but do not have citizenship), move about in the capital with no restraint, speak fluent Hebrew and do not raise suspicions. So when it comes to the residents of East Jerusalem, their interaction with the terrorist's target population is inevitable.

Contrary to its image of serenity, the eastern part of the city has been active in terrorism during both intifadas: About 300 residents were arrested during the last eight years for their role in terrorism.

Precisely because the area is territory under full Israeli control, no real response is expected at this time. If Hamas is not responsible, and the Palestinian Authority is not to blame, Israel has no target against whom to retaliate. On the other hand, politicians outdid each other yesterday (including the prime minister and the defense minister), in aggressive declarations. It seems this time they will try to raze the home of the terrorist, a retaliatory act that was put on hold in the case of the attack on Mercaz Harav.

The enthusiasm for this initiative - a sort of magic formula - is strange. The IDF ceased razing homes in the West Bank in 2005 when a committee headed by Major General Ehud Shani concluded that destroying homes has not proved to be a deterrent, because it did more harm than good.

While Islamic Jihad lauded the bulldozer attack in Jerusalem, Hamas avoided expressing any enthusiastic support for the act. The family of the terrorist did not put up any Hamas flags on its home, and the family did not receive even a partial endorsement from the organization.

Irrespective of the questionable criminal record of the terrorist, it seems that the measured response of Hamas is linked more to the group's wish to lower - at this time - its public visage in the confrontation with Israel. The attack in Jerusalem does not serve Hamas well at a time when it is mostly seeking to improve the living conditions in the Gaza Strip, and it needs Israel's agreement in order to keep the crossings into the Strip open.

It is doubtful that the bulldozer operator had planned the attack in advance, but the attack took place under the media's nose, in front of the building that houses foreign news outlets. The people who were passing in Jaffa Road, and all of Jerusalem, relived the terrible days of the intifada at its height, between 2001-2003. A serious attack in four months may undermine the sense of security that was restored with significant effort.

Even if most of those killed this year have been victims of an individual's attack in Jerusalem and rocket and mortar shelling from the Strip (both forms of terrorism that are hard to prevent), the statistics are troubling: 26 dead in six months. This number of victims is four times greater than last year.