And why doesn’t anyone in Israel seem to notice this? Answer: for the same reason that the Palestinian riots started in the first place.
With Palestinians protesting violently in East Jerusalem and the Israeli north, and with Palestinians in Gaza, or some of them anyway, firing rockets into Israel’s south, who are the only Palestinians in this land who are not raising hell these days?
The Palestinians of the West Bank. They threw a lot of rocks when the Israeli army invaded the Hebron area gunning for Hamas and looking for Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaar and their kidnappers, but since the boys were found murdered a week ago and the army left, the West Bank has been remarkably quiet. Even in the last few days, following the discovery of Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s burnt body, when Palestinian violence has spread through East Jerusalem and Israel’s “Arab Triangle,” when we’re on the verge of war with Gaza again, there’s little news from the West Bank.
Yet nobody notices.
Why is the West Bank, the heart of the Palestinian nation, the most populous part of it, and the part that comes most harshly under Israel’s malign power, davka the one part of the Palestinian nation that isn’t rebelling against Israel today? Why is the West Bank, which is most closely associated with the first and second intifadas, now largely absent from the action that threatens to turn into a third one?
Because of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. It’s not that the people of the West Bank don’t want to attack Israeli soldiers and settlers, it’s that the PA security forces are doing their best not to let them. PA troops, not Israeli troops, keep order in the cities, villages and refugee camps where the West Bank’s Palestinians live, and it is those PA troops – unlike Israeli police in East Jerusalem and the Triangle these days – who are keeping a lid on the tension. It is thanks to Abbas and the PA that the 2.5 million Palestinians of the West Bank are not rioting en masse against Israeli soldiers and settlers.
And nobody in Israel notices. Just like nobody in Israel noticed it for the past several years when PA troops, at Abbas’ orders, were working alongside the IDF and Shin Bet hour-by-hour to shut down terror to a remarkable degree. Two and a half weeks ago, on June 19, Haaretz’s Ari Shavit, the voice of the so-called Israeli center, wrote a column titled “Seven Good Years.”
The suicide bombers’ offensive abated already in 2005, but from 2007 onward Mahmoud Abbas, Salam Fayyad, the IDF, the Shin Bet security service, Palestinian security forces and the separation fence managed to silence the next violence from the east. The number of Israeli casualties from terror attacks – and the number of Palestinian casualties from Israeli fire – dwindled in the last half-decade to levels the likes of which we hadn’t known in previous decades. The second intifada dissipated and even the street pressure of the first intifada wasn’t resumed.
Until the abduction of the three youths in Alon Shvut a week ago, no strategic attack had been launched. The bloody attacks on Israeli cities and even the attacks on the settlements and settlers dramatically diminished. The economic prosperity, cultural boom and good life … since 2007 were possible only because the violent reality we had lived in was replaced with a reality of quiet borders, a quiet West Bank and astonishing stability.
We didn’t notice then, like we don’t notice the relative quiet in the West Bank today. And it’s because we didn’t notice what Abbas was doing for us – not because he loves us, but because his interests coincided with ours – that we pissed away the best chance we ever had or ever will have to make peace with the Palestinians. Not only didn’t we make peace, but the Israeli government and public grew steadily more contemptuous of the Palestinians, beginning with Abbas. And it’s because we’re so contemptuous of the Palestinians that we’re incapable of acknowledging that they’re doing anything good, that they’re helping us instead of hurting us, that we should appreciate what they’re doing instead of trashing them. And, in turn, it’s because of that callous indifference of ours, years and years of it while we enjoyed “a reality of quiet borders, a quiet West Bank and astonishing stability,” that we’re seeing the Palestinians finally erupt.
Except in the West Bank, where Abbas’ men are still holding the fort, still protecting us. We’ll notice them when they’re gone, not before.