The head of Military Intelligence, Maj. General Herzl Halevi, said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that feelings of rage and frustration, especially among younger Palestinians, are part of the reason for the wave of terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Three people who attended the meeting and spoke with Haaretz on the condition of anonymity, reported that Halevi said many of the young perpetrators decided to carry out attacks because they were in despair over the state of things “and felt they had nothing to lose.”
Halevi, the sources said, added that reports and comments on social media, as well as shared videos of previous attacks, are also a contributing factor. Another cause that is affecting some young Palestinians, who executed terrorist attacks, was discourse in social media and videos of other terrorist attacks.
Leaders in the Palestinian Authority have little influence on these young people, who are alienated from them.
Halevi noted that while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has instructed the PA security forces to thwart attacks on Israelis and has taken other measures to introduce quiet, “on the other hand he has branches that are acting to keep some kind of activity in the field,” he was quoted as telling the cabinet.
After Halevi discussed reasons for the terror attacks, Immigrant Absorption Minister Zeev Elkintold criticized him for minimizing the effect of incitement on the Palestinian side and said that Halevi implied that only Israel was at fault and not the incitement. Halevi didn’t argue with Elkin. “Yes. There is also incitement,” he said, according to the sources who attended the meeting.
When asked afterward to comment, Elkin said that he doesn’t comment on what goes on in classified meetings.
The Spokesman’s Unit of the Israel Defense Forces said in a response that it does not provide details on what officers say in cabinet meetings.
Halevi’s remarks reflect the predominant position that members of the Israeli security establishment in general, and the IDF in particular, have been presenting to the cabinet and the inner cabinet since the escalation began several weeks ago. Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and other generals have been pushing for a much less aggressive approach than that advocated by cabinet members, and have been stressing the importance of close coordination with Abbas and the PA security forces.
Halevi’s assessment as for the causes of the wave of terror attacks substantially contradicts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s message on the subject over the past few weeks. In a press conference with foreign reporters on October 15 Netanyahu said “Now they say: you have terrorist attacks because there is no peace. Neither is true. They’re attacking us not because they want peace or don’t want peace. It’s because they don’t want us here.”
In the opening of the new Knesset session on October 12, Netanyahu said: “Terrorism doesn’t stem from frustration due to the lack of progress in the peace process — terrorism stems from the will to have us exterminated.” A few days earlier, in a press conference Netanyahu called on October 8 the prime minister said that the wave of terror attacks was, “a result of wild and false incitement by the Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, several countries in the region and the Islamic Movement in Israel.”
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