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The Shuafat shooting has destroyed Israel’s deterrence factor

October 13, 2022 at 12:42 pm

Israeli forces stand guard during an army raid in the Shuafat Refugee Camp that have been besieged since October 8 in East Jerusalem on October 11, 2022 [Mücahit Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

The Shuafat shooting near the city of Jerusalem left an Israeli soldier dead and another wounded when an armed Palestinian stormed a military checkpoint and opened fire while soldiers were apparently dumbfounded and unable to respond. The attack has implications on the political, military and security levels in response to what is believed to be a disastrous failure for the army and the government.

The attack prompted Israeli military and security experts to vent their anger at their own personnel and politicians. They claimed that a deteriorating sense of security following ongoing Palestinian resistance action will drive young Israelis to migrate, leaving a shortage across the younger generation who are willing to stay in Israel and fight the next war.

The attack in Shuafat, along with other Palestinian resistance action, coincided with the 49th anniversary of the 1973 October War in which Israel suffered a catastrophic loss. This has in turn magnified its sense of disappointment at its deteriorating security situation, given the helplessness of the soldiers at the military checkpoint when facing the attacker. This suggests that there is a lack of discipline; an inability to follow orders and learn from previous lessons; poor weapons training and education; and a lack of motivation not only to join the army in the first place, but also to go into combat.

READ: 150,000 Palestinians in West Bank under siege by Israel 

The most important question left unanswered by the Shuafat attack, especially as it coincided with the October war, is how the Israeli army can win another war while it is in this miserable state. Will the army be able to protect the state and its citizens from ever-increasing threats which are turning into an existential crisis? The fabled “Israel Defence Forces” seems to have become an inept and ineffective fighting body with a collapsing organisational culture; it is certainly not war ready by any means.

What happened in Shuafat was actually a natural and predictable result of the Israeli government’s failed policy towards the Palestinians. Moreover, it has no obvious solution for the increasing amount of resistance activity. There have been dozens of warnings about imminent attacks, and a sharp increase in their number, while shootings and the throwing of stones on the roads of the occupied West Bank are frequent occurrences. Jenin and Nablus have long become dangerous for Israelis to the point where the state is now radiating weakness. It seems that everyone is preoccupied with the General Election campaign.

Israeli violence against the Palestinian resistance will not calm the situation from the point of view of the occupation state and its settlers, but Israel only understands the language of force. That’s why allegations are now being levelled at the government that its policies will only lead to an increase in armed attacks and more astonishing incidents like the one that took place in front of the Shuafat checkpoint. This increases the sense of Israeli insecurity.

Politically, the government is criticised for not ordering the security forces to escalate their violence against the Palestinians on the pretext of stopping attacks and restoring the fabled deterrence factor. In the meantime, Israel’s random arrests and killings continue, and do not differentiate between a resistance fighter and a child. Comprehensive operations burn everything and everyone in a desperate and unsuccessful attempt to rein in the resistance.

The video coverage of the attack in Shuafat revealed the audacity of the Palestinian resistance fighter and the occupation soldiers’ humiliating retreat. Israel needs to find new solutions, but nothing like the “Defensive Wall” operation in the occupied West Bank in 2002. Those leading the current wave of attacks are young people and social media activists. Any large-scale Israeli offensive will only add more young men to their ranks and turn events into a popular uprising.

READ: Palestinian PA calls for urgent international efforts to end the siege on Shuafat camp

Investigations into what happened at Shuafat may not be limited to soldiers in the field, because footage of the attack showed some very obvious institutional failures. And even though most Palestinian resistance fighters pick weak military or settler locations to maximise the potential for success, what happened in Shuafat saw an attack on a large group of soldiers. This raises some serious questions about the grouping together of eight soldiers within a few metres of each other, which makes a successful attack against them more likely. There was a lot of confusion on the part of the soldiers, leaving the attacker to get away with relative and, it must be said, rare ease.

So the political and security officials in Israel face a dilemma to prevent the situation from getting out of control. At the moment, it is not clear if the attacker meant to target the soldiers or simply hit the first available target he came across. The success of the attack has changed the overall picture, and now the Israelis expect similar resistance action. It is going to be a tense run-up to next month’s election.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.