This will be a brief Ready Room; basically little more than a string of tweets. But it’s important. The subject is the terror attacks in Israel in recent days, which have now taken the lives of 11 people. The first was a gruesome mass-knifing attack, the other two shooting attacks.
Terror using small arms is not unusual in Israel, but the attacks we’ve been seeing also don’t fit recent patterns. It isn’t typical to see three days in close succession with shooting attacks, in random locations and without fairly rapid attribution to a known group (whether a group takes credit or the Israeli authorities present findings). The sense that something different Is happening appears to be growing.
Note that ISIS reportedly did take credit for the first two attacks (something I haven’t been able to track down yet, but Daniel Greenfield is very reliable).
This sense that something’s different is our friend. Many hard-working analysts seem to continue looking for answers in the rearview mirror, among usual suspects and for the usual imputed reasons. But there’s a really big, glaring reason to not go with old assumptions, and it should be at the forefront of our minds right now.
I’m satisfied, from the ostentatious reactions of at least some Palestinian Arabs (e.g., the candy distribution, the rallies at identified terrorists’ homes) , that there’s support among them for these attacks.
But that doesn’t mean the attacks have been organized by the go-to terror groups, on the basis of the same old claimed grievances and political dynamics.
It feels different, because it is different. Certainly the perpetrators are Israeli or Palestinian Arabs, as indicated by Israeli authorities. The point isn’t that the gun- or knife-wielders are from somewhere else. But the tactical pattern – the method and recurrence – and atmosphere of motive, and perhaps purpose, are from somewhere else.
I recommend considering the possibility that some Arabs from Israel and the territories are being radicalized on a new(ish) vector by regional opponents of the Abraham Accords, the Negev summit, and the changing dynamics of regional alignment and connections. They could well be from the existing groups (e.g., Al-Qassem Martyrs Brigade, maybe PIJ), but the sense of a new infusion of purpose is valid.
I’m not convinced the old terror crowd is forward-looking enough to seize the reins on this by itself. Iran certainly has the undivided motive to oppose the Abraham Accords. But for Arabs in the region, it’s a new alignment dynamic that many are still trying to find a footing in.
Pre-Abraham Accords, patronage like Saudi Arabia’s for Fatah may have waxed and waned, but it was the last verified touchstone of reality. Now it’s in question. The same can be said of UAE; between the two Gulf monarchies, Abbas got a lot of propping up, and the problem he was at the center of was assumed to be “the” problem. That is no longer the case.
The transformation started a while back, actually. It’s been building since the revolution in Iran, with Tehran’s patronage of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the “Syrian Arab” political identity represented by the Assads.
But the Gulf Arabs’ rapprochement with Israel in 2020 is a major muscle movement that had to spark changes. One of those changes was aways likely to be the vector of radical animus in the region. Radicalized Sunnis and Shias have opposed Gulf monarchs, and the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, for some time, but the urgency wasn’t necessarily there. Now it’s something we should look for: that urgency, and increased interest from the most motivated actors outside the Palestinian territories.
The best places to start looking are Iran and ISIS, I think. Serial shootings haven’t been much up the Iranian Qods Force’s alley (i.e., in terms of training and arming terrorists for them). But ISIS is known to have an interesting amount of overlap with and participation from Chechen terrorists, and serial shootings are very much in their M.O.
Groups with these affiliations will be motivated to oppose the participants in the Abraham Accords, and to attack the civic peace of those participants. Israel is one; we saw the others gathered in the Negev in the last few days. Some Palestinian and Israeli Arabs, especially the ones already radicalized, will see joining such a newly defined cause as the way ahead.
Even if this doesn’t explain everything right now, it will at some point have to be factored in. The Abraham Accords are a major reset, and will reset a lot of things. The whole region will be better off if all of the nations see clearly where this is coming from, and make common cause against it. It won’t come for only one nation.
Feature image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Felix Garza Jr. (Via Wikimedia Commons)