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Analysis: The end of the 'cheap occupation' era

Israel may soon have to say goodbye to its tight-knit cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and the relative calm that comes with it. 

The discovery of the bodies of three Israeli teens who have been missing for the last 18 days, along with the public calls for vengeance heard in Israel today, could mark the beginning of a new era in the West Bank – one that is considerably less stable. This might not be a third intifada but it is also not the relative calm or the close military coordination Israel enjoyed over the last five to six years.

While the public rage in Israel is understandable, it could turn into hate crimes and other violent attacks on Palestinians. There have been initial reports on such incidents already, although luckily they have not resulted in fatalities.

I believe that the Israeli government has no interest in a violent escalation right now. Netanyahu’s nationalistic rhetoric was always at odds with his relative restraint when it came to the use of military power; his record on this issue is much better than any of his predecessors. Most chances are that Bibi will take some very public measures while keeping things under control. His real goal will be to score points on the diplomatic front, especially against the new Palestinian unity deal. The legitimacy of Hamas participation in the PA and PLO has already suffered from the kidnapping, and the fatal blow might come if Israel is able to present significant evidence that links Hamas decision makers to the murder.

Read +972′s full coverage of the kidnappings and ‘Operation Brother’s Keeper’

Surely, events might spin out of control (a Palestinian teenager was killed by IDF forces in Jenin last night) but even if the Israeli government does not initiate large-scale military action, the proximity of the kidnapping to other major developments – the collapse of the diplomatic process, the growing pressure on Hamas in Gaza and the attempt to form a Palestinian unity government – may bring about a new era in the West Bank.

Israeli army officer next to the site where the bodies of three missing teens were located, June 30 2014 (photo: Activestills)

An Israeli army officer standing near the site where the bodies of three missing teens were located, June 30 2014 (photo: Activestills)

In previous years, Israel enjoyed unprecedented calm in the West Bank, largely due to tight military coordination with the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s main policy objective was preventing attacks on Israelis. This coordination reached its peak in 2012, a year in which not a single Israeli was killed in the West Bank. This was the era of the “cheap occupation” – when the PA was financed by the United States and the European Union, and Israel benefited from its work.

One Palestinian I spoke to called it “room service occupation,” meaning that “Israel could pick up the phone and the PA would hand it a wanted man on a plate.” Under such circumstances, the Israeli right was able to market the West Bank to the public as the local Tuscany, and consider the comfortable status quo to be a legitimate, long-term solution.

Israeli Right: Hit Palestinians hard in response to abductees’ murder

Yet what justified the existence of the Palestinian Authority – let alone its policies – was a promised endgame in the form of a Palestinian state. Now that it is clear a state is not around the corner — and may never be established at all. The unity deal and caretaker government was an alternative achievement by Mahmoud Abbas that was meant to prepare the ground for a renewed diplomatic effort. However, this government’s fate is also unclear.

If Palestinian politics have no goal, no unity, no elections and certainly no state, then the rationale behind supporting security coordination with Israel also collapses. I do not believe that the PA will cease coordination on its own – and certainly not as the result of an order from above – but I do think it will become less and less effective. Perhaps this is happening already: settlers have been claiming for some time that there is a considerable rise in stone throwing and even Molotov cocktail attacks on Israeli cars, and just recently security officials claimed that there have been numerous abduction attempts and other attacks that were thwarted.

Many have speculated in recent months on the possibility of a third intifada breaking out should American-led negotiations fail. I don’t think such a scenario is very likely. The Palestinians are still traumatized by their losses during the Second Intifada, between 2001 and 2004. It could be that the kidnapping suggests a different, more likely scenario: a dramatic spike in the number of isolated incidents, from abductions to attacks on Israeli cars.

The Israeli government is likely to respond the only way it knows: with force. The Right will try to convince the population that a harsh response is the only solution to terror. Blowing up houses and settling new hills – the settlers are already demanding both – will increase the pressure on the PA. The Israeli government would be forced to take on more responsibility, and the days of the cheap occupation will be over.

Three kidnapped Israeli teens found dead in the West Bank
Israeli right demands punitive measures against Palestinians
When the canons roar, the Israeli Left remains silent

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    1. Ginger Eis

      Recording of teen’s emergency call released: ‘They’ve kidnapped me’. In tape, kidnappers can be heard yelling at teens to put heads down before loud noises ring out.


      (Dear Mr. Sheizaf, as you write your screed and rant, the kids are being buried – one after the other, while the Jewish People all over the world are engulfed in sorrow. The least you can do for the next FEW HOURS is to refrained from the usual far-left diatribe and pay tribute to the murdered kids. Have you no sense of decency and shame, sir?!).

      Reply to Comment
        • Ginger Eis

          I guess no parents could ever accept that their sons are dead until they have seen their bodies (I would not have acted differently if any of my brothers were involved). The shots heard on the tape could be interpreted in many ways back then. But after the bodies were found they became certain of what happened.

          Reply to Comment
          • kate

            the sound of gunfire was misinterpreted? As I’ve seen other places now pull the other one. In light of this it makes the visit to UNHRC even more questionable

            Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            I didn’t say that the “sound of the gunfire was misinterpreted”. I said that the shots/gunfire could be interpreted in many different ways back then (before the bodies were found) – i.e. back then, the gunshots could have meant (a) the boys were shot and dead or (b) the boys were shot, wounded but not dead or (c) the shots missed the boys and they are not dead or (d) someone else other than the boys got shot or (e) the shots were fired in the air. These possibilities are equally reasonable and probable. Without the dead bodies or at least confession and/or eyewitness testimony, parents would always assume the best case scenario and hope for the best outcome.

            Reply to Comment
    2. EYES2Cעיניים לראות

      1. Noam Sheizaf’s “I don’t think that…” is as good as any analyst’s (Israeli, Palestinian or foreign). The detonator in the Occupation Bomb is ON, and anything may happen. Remember: the first Intifada started after 4 Palestinian workers were killed in a road accident.
      2. Israelis believed that their forces are able to protect them “no matter what”. This belief motivated the kidnapped youth to call the police and ask for help.

      But instead, it may have been the reason why the kidnappers — who probably wanted to exchange the three for Palestinian prisoners — killed them immediately.

      So the lesson for Israelis is: Never call the Police. They aren’t able to help, and calling “The Law” may only make you more vulnerable, and worse.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        The lesson is: Carry weapons and use them at first sign of threat.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ginger Eis

        You are not very clever, are you? You and you Muslim-Arab brethren live, eat and procreate in Israel, Judea & Samaria because we decide(d) that you may; we let you exist and live and you would be gone if we change our mind. Let there be no doubt about that in anyone’s mind. Indeed, “the detonator in” your terror “BOMB” has been “ON” since the 1920s! But behold where that “BOMB” has gotten you so far, and imagine where it can still get you. Smart rodents never taunt/threaten Sky-Hawks while in the middle of an open-field, lest they meet certain death, got it?!

        Reply to Comment
        • Reza Lustig

          Wow. So the Palestinians live in their native area, which you are unwelcome occupiers in, only because of your benevolence, and should be grateful to you. You sound exactly like some Japanese or Italian hack during WWII, justifying treatment of the locals in your colonial territory when they get out of hand.

          And, to complete the image, you refer to them as rodents. And no, I don’t care if it was an allegory. You compared them to rodents.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ginger Eis

            Judea & Samaria are integral parts of the Ancestral Home Land of the Jewish People. Jews have always lived- and will eternally live there, multiply, prosper and defend themselves there. We live there and we also let the Arabs live there. We want life, happiness and prosperity for Arabs and Jews in Judea & Samaria. But, whoever kills us or tries to do so in an effort to force us out of Judea & Samaria will meet certain death. I can’t be clearer. And I don’t give a fuck whether or not you accept my allegory as an allegory – as long as you (as you obviously did) understand its dire meaning!

            Reply to Comment
    3. Black Sparrow

      Israeli soldiers and other users in a popular Facebook group are celebrating the killing of a Palestinian youth in Jenin refugee camp last night and are urging more “revenge” for the deaths of three Israeli youths whose bodies were found in the occupied West Bank on MondayThey have made it clear that they do not want businesses from illegal Israeli settlements trading in their town

      Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      If “events spin out of control” and there will be an increase in violent attacks on Israeli civilians, then the Israeli reaction will be to put in place security precautions to protect Israelis. A “dramatic spike in the number of isolated incidents” is indistinguishable for Israelis from an intifada regardless of whether the Palestinians wish to name it that or not. It means that in any situation where both Israelis and Palestinians are present the Israelis are at risk of being randomly murdered with no regard for their ages or backgrounds. In other contexts this is called terrorism. The only credible security precaution is to heavily limit and control the number of such situations by heavily controlling the movement of Palestinians and ensuring that they lack the weapons to kill Jews at will. That means checkpoints, less work permits for Palestinians, more operations to arrest ring leaders and assassinations of terrorists where necessary.

      If the Palestinian Authority security forces do not cooperate in protecting Israelis from attacks then they turn into suspicious if not directly hostile forces. The Palestinian Authority leaders become useless talking heads with no real use for Israel. That means a return to the security and political conditions that were dominant during the second intifada. The Palestinian Authority would in such a scenario be headed for a collapse since there would be no reason for the US and EU to continue funding them. That means a collapse in most services currently available to the Palestinians along with their economy since it is mostly based on salaries paid by the Palestinian Authority. I don’t think the consequences of that will be good for the Palestinians, and I strongly doubt it would tempt Israel to step into the gap to provide such services. Such an outcome would certainly be very different from the status quo, and very different from the situation in 1987 and 2000, but I can’t see how it would be in any way beneficial to the Palestinians or conducive to their goals. In other cases similar economic (collapsed economy) and social conditions (collapsed justice system and the disappearance of social services) led to a complete societal collapse.

      It will not be a “comfortable” status quo for Israel, but it will be a much more uncomfortable status quo for the Palestinians. In a situation where there are attacks coming out of the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority it would be very difficult for anyone to argue that Israel would be better off with more territory under the control of the Palestinians. In such a situation the security costs would increase for Israel but the potential benefits of any alternative status quo would be heavily undermined by the decrease in the faith Israeli citizens would have for any outcome that grants the Palestinians more territory or sovereignty which in practice would be seen to translate into increasing their ability to kill more Jews.

      On the other hand within Israel such a situation means that there will be increasing support for the right-wing and for whatever policies they wish to pursue, which consist of heavy military measures combined with increased settlement. In the long-term it means the Palestinians will be forced back to the negotiating table at even worse terms than they were this time.

      Reply to Comment
    5. rsgengland

      The presence of Israel in Judea and Samaria (called the West Bank after Jordan annexed it in 1950) has never been cheap
      But it’s still a whole lot cheaper than having Palestinians firing rifles , rockets and mortars into Israel from the areas over the old green armistice lines of 1949.
      Ramat Gan, Givatyim and all the other towns would be in the same range as Sderot
      That would really be expensive and a lot more explosive than the current situation is

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bar

      Sheizaf’s alternate reality, in which the PA creates a unity government for a “renewed diplomatic effort.” Are you kidding? Abbas never intended to make peace and does not intend to make peace and never negotiated in good faith and won’t negotiate in good faith. The unity government was created in order to strengthen Palestinian efforts at the UN and other bodies so they can claim to be a “state.”

      Three teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood, Noam. How about taking a break for a day or two from the constant vilification of Israel and Israel’s “right” and settlements and the usual mumbo jumbo. How about spending your time discussing, for example, how the PA and Hamas glorify and extol kidnappers and murderers of Israelis so that even the mother of one of the alleged killers boasts of her joy at his actions?

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        And why, may I ask, is it wrong for the PA to seek to consolidate its authority in its own territory that it is supposed to control? Do they have to run everything by Bibi?

        And no, we don’t feel having a “minute of silence,” just to humor you. Targeting innocents, especially young innocents (this also includes the family members of “terrorists,” and the homes they live in), is a manifestly immoral act; I don’t think you’ll find many writers or commenters on this website disagree. Excuse us for being more concerned with what Israeli politicians actually threaten, and have the power to do (without concrete evidence that the party they hold responsible is responsible), while not being outraged over idle propagandizing from Hamas.

        Reply to Comment
        • JG

          Settler are occupiers of foreign land, and not innocent people.

          Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            Kids are, ipso facto, innocent, and not to be held responsible for the misdeeds of their parents. Collective punishment is wrong, period.

            Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Actually at least one of the writers here believes the Palestinians have the right to murder Israeli civilians.

          I keep seeing here people defending Hamas arguing that it shouldn’t be targeted because it hasn’t taken credit. Is it not a terrorist organization which has murdered thousands of Israelis by directly targetting civilians and which praises the murder of Israeli civilians on a regular basis? Stop defending terrorists.

          Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            Actually, Hamas is a legitimate political party within the Palestinian political system. Palestine is (nominally) a sovereign nation. You need proof before you go in and destabilize that system for petty revenge.

            You lot are gonna have to bite the bullet and swallow your pride, just like the French did when they gave Algeria to the FLN, who purse bombed pied noir cafes. If you ever want to have peace, that is.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            That a terrorist organization is considered a legitimate political party among the Palestinians is indeed their problem along with the overwhelming support for terrorism against Israeli civilians. That it is a terrorist organization is a fact. There is no need for proof of any specific act to go after an organization that proudly claims numerous terrorist acts in the past and praises all current and future attacks against Israeli civilians.

            If the peace we are being offered is the one that the FLN offered the pied noirs – “la valise ou le cercueil”, then no, we are not interested in peace. If the peace that is being offered is the one that was available to the French then there is something to consider. Unfortunately most Palestinians see all of us Jews here as pied noirs and offer us only death or expulsion, hardly a recipe for peace.

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            I’m sick of Zionists complaining about how Palestinians have mean thoughts about them, and are supportive of violent means of resisting military occupation. Guess what? Apart from the French (who mostly just rolled over and did nothing while the Communists and Gaullists fought the Nazis), every people who have ever been subject to military occupation, especially for decades on end, wind up disliking their occupiers to a degree, and more likely to advocate violence against them. If you want them to like Israeli Jews more, I’m sorry but the burden is on you (the occupier with the standing army) to work to change their views of you, which will inevitably involve a lot of concessions, and ending the occupation.

            It’s funny how you compare the entirety of the Israeli Jewish population to the pied noir, when the most apt comparison would be with occupied territory settlers; like the pied noir, they are unwelcome beneficiaries of the largesse of their occupier.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            You may have no problems with Palestinians wishing to kill us all and overwhelmingly supporting the murder of our civilians. It might even make you sick to have this barbarity pointed out to you. Yet it remains a fact and one that we are not planning to pretend away any time soon. Hamas is a terrorist organization that celebrates the death of Israeli civilians, including women and children. The Palestinians embrace this organization as normal and legitimate political actors. They literally would celebrate were an Arab to walk up to me and blow my brains out. This is sickening indeed. We don’t need the Arabs to like us, but we do expect that if we are ever going to live in peace that they at least arrive at a moral position where they view us as human beings and not “symbols of injustice” to be slaughtered for Palestine and that consists of actual condemnations of the murder of Israeli civilians and not embracing organizations that publicly praise it.

            The Palestinians make no distinction between the West Bank and Israel proper in their demands, nor do they particularly care if the Jew they kill lives in a settlement or not. For the overwhelming majority of Palestinians there is no difference between Jaffa and Nablus, Hebron and Haifa and no difference between a resident of Tel Aviv and of Kiryat Arba. To them this is all Algeria and we are all pied noirs. If you think otherwise then you are not paying attention to the articles written even here.

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            The Palestinians reserve the same right to resent their occupier, and to feel joy when they hear of that occupier getting a bloody nose for their bullying, as every single occupied people in history have had, from the Vietnamese to the Irish. Hopefully, Israel’s fortunes will not be reversed; it’s far too late for you (for all the wrong reasons), but hopefully future Israeli generations will not learn what it means to be made to feel humiliated and powerless at the hands of an occupying power, and learn what it means to truly despise an entire people for the crimes of a few.

            So, no, I don’t think any of you have the right to condemn a people you victimize and humiliate for half a century for the thought-crime of disliking Israeli Jews, as long as a single soldier remains in the West Bank.

            Also, in response to your claims about Palestinians wanting to kill all the Jews in Israel, that’s a tough sell considering only about a 3rd of Israelis believe it.


            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The Palestinians have the right to resent whoever they want. That doesn’t mean that they are justified in supporting terrorism against civilians. I repeat, were an Arab to come up to me and blow my brains out he would be considered a hero and granted a salary in prison were he to be caught. When he is released he will be given a hero’s welcome and a ceremonial and well-paying position in the Palestinian Authority. If this doesn’t qualify as complete societal support for the murder of any Jew then I don’t know what does.

            If you can not condemn the murder of civilians then you have absolutely no moral or ethical case for any argument you may want to make. And no, occupation does not justify murdering civilians. Nothing does. I condemn the murder of civilians. If Palestinian society can not likewise take such a basic and clear moral position then this is a war to the death and any and all moral restrictions are suspended and everything is justified.

            As to polling of Israeli Jews. Israeli Jews tend to be very ignorant about the societies that surround them and how they conduct war. They don’t learn Arabic and they barely follow the news out of Syria or Iraq. They also tend to be optimistic and to have a soft spot for seeing people in a positive light. Despite the overwhelming support among the Palestinians for the wanton murder of Israeli civilians during the intifada the Israelis still tend to ascribe positive intentions to them, such as “they just want a state”. The fact that pretty much every conflict in this region ends with slaughter and expulsion is to them a random fact that is as of yet not factored into their perceptions of the situation. However, thanks to the increased extremism of Israeli Arab leaders in Hebrew (especially those of Balad) and the steady drip of atrocities committed nearby by Islamists there is a growing understanding that on the other side is an enemy who sees no place for Jews in this country. Polling of youth reflects this very well.

            Reply to Comment
        • Bar

          It’s not idle propagandizing. It is the ethos of these people.


          For anybody to claim that they seek peace or seek some sort of diplomatic breakthrough is just as blind and misleading as claiming there is some sort of unity government that has denounced violence and accepted the notion of coming to a peace agreement that recognizes Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            Like I told Kolumn9, just apply the example of the French and the Algerian FLN. Yeah, I know you hate the idea of diplomacy (and actually being sincere about it), but it’s eventually gonna be the only viable option for you. The Palestinian government is going to include Hamas. You can either accept that, and strive to work with the new government to reduce violence, or you can continue to be paranoid.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            I’m all for diplomacy. I supported Barak’s offers. I supported Olmert’s offer (sort of). I support talks and resolution.

            As for negotiating with Hamas, I would speak to them after they eliminate the anti-semitic and genocidal language from their charter. Don’t lecture Israel and its supporters about this, get Hamas to change its systems of belief.

            Reply to Comment
          • bar

            What generous offer? The one Noam made up? Here was my response to him then:

            “The concessions you list are all concessions that were already present in 2000/2001 at Taba and in Olmert’s offer. They were, in theory, accepted by Abbas already back then, but the deals didn’t move forward because of other factors.

            In fact, the concessions described by Indyk are less than what Olmert offered in 2008 to Abbas. So if he said no to Olmert (or walked away) then why say yes now when he’s feeling much more confident?

            Also, an inspection of the details shows there is little new under the sun. For example, the 80% of settlers is precisely the same number Barak spoke of because when Israel keeps the 5% of Judea and Samaria that it has been demanding in all of these offers, that land encompasses 80% of the settlers.

            If you notice, however, what (presumably) Indyk doesn’t say is that Abbas accepted the 5% land deal. That’s because, presumably, he thinks he can find the 80,000 “settlers” (most of them are in Israel) in the 2% the Palestinians have always agreed to concede.

            There are three key concessions that are missing in Indyk’s story and a third that is very telling.

            The first is, what language the Palestinians demand for dealing with the refugee issue. Are they signing off on “symbolic” or are they saying “symbolic but under 194.” This is meaningful because you can’t have a vague, diplomatic stance here.

            The second issue is how the Palestinians agree to deal with the Western Wall, tunnels and Haram al Sharif. This was a problem in 2001, 2008 and remains one now where they refused sovereignty to Israel (Clinton’s telling of this differs from Ben Ami’s and Moratinos).

            The third issue is that there is no concession to end the conflict. Abbas explicitly told Obama he wouldn’t agree to this language.

            Fourth, is the “Jewish state” issue. Although Peres says Abbas agreed to this language, all public statements from the Palestinians to date reject this language. In fact, their public statements contradict Indyk’s general thesis about any compromise.”

            There was no offer. There was a leftist writer trying to find a way to give one to Abbas. It’s quite dishonest actually but it fools people like you so I guess it works.

            Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            So, there was no offer because:

            a. the offer was similar to a previous offer, only the other guy was offering it this time. And that somehow negates the current offer. What is this, an auction? Does Abbas have to up his bid for his country’s total sovereignty every time?

            b. “symbolic” bamboozles you, even though it means Israel has the right to refuse any refugees it wants. Fair enough, paranoia.

            c. semantics and fine print about certain areas, missing the forest for the shrubberies.

            d. No “Israel as a Jewish State” (TM)

            In a word: phooey.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            I know the facts are hard to accept for you, but they are what they are.

            Reply to Comment
    7. been there

      “Israel enjoyed unprecedented calmin the West Bank, largely due to tight military coordination with the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s main policy objective was preventing attacks on Israelis. This coordination reached its peak in 2012, a year in which not a single Israeli was killed in the West Bank.”
      The PA is in practice an arm of the Shin Bet. You can gloat that not a single Israeli was killed. but many Palestinians were and still are killed, their children taken away,as well as having their houses demolished, their trees unrooted, their water stolen ..being subjected to daily humiliations ..as long as these atrocities happen to the ‘unchosen ‘ Other, it’s OK with the writer.

      Reply to Comment
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