Nadav Argaman, the new director of the Shin Bet, described the situation in Judea and Samaria as “more volatile than ever” on Tuesday when he gave his first report on Palestinian threats before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
“Since the beginning of the latest escalation [October 2015], more than 300 major terrorist attacks and attempted terrorist attacks have been committed,” Argaman said. “There have been roughly 180 stabbing attacks, more than 90 shooting attacks, and about 30 car-ramming attacks.”
Argaman, who became the director of the Shin Bet in May, served previously as its deputy director and as the director of its operational division. He is considered one of the Shin Bet’s most prolific former secret agents.
Argaman told the committee that while the number of attacks ordered and organized by the major terrorist organizations has declined, the number of attacks by unaffiliated perpetrators “motivated by personal reasons” has increased.
He added that Israel has experienced a decrease in what he called “substantial terrorist attacks” in recent months. The Shin Bet does not consider the daily attacks of rock-throwing or even firebombing as substantial terrorism, but rather as rioting and disturbing the peace.
Still, he said, the recent decrease is not due to a lack of effort on the part of would-be Palestinian terrorists.
“Despite the de facto decrease in successful terrorists attacks, the number of threats originating from Judea and Samaria is higher today than ever before,” Argaman said. “The number of attacks prevented by Israel’s security bodies has increased exponentially.”
Argaman said that the increase in prevented attacks is mainly due to the adaptability of Israel’s security agencies to the new type of threats and the Shin Bet’s improved deterrence against “lone wolf” terrorists.
Argaman told the committee: “The situation in Judea and Samaria is still extremely volatile, and an unusual incident, such as tensions on the Temple Mount or a successful mass terror attack, could lead to a new outburst and escalation.”
An official of the Shin Bet’s Communications Department said that Argaman was behind the assassinations of several high-ranking terrorists in Gaza such as Yahya Ayyash, who was known as “The Engineer” because of his bomb-making ability, and Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’s military chief.
Speaking about the Gaza front and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, Argaman said that the “relative quiet and tranquility on that border is nothing but an illusion.” The fact that Hamas’s back is to the wall makes it more dangerous in the context of a possible future conflict, he added.
“Hamas is being challenged at home by players affiliated with Islamic State,” Argaman said. “It has been strategically weakened due to political isolation by Sunni countries such as Egypt, and there is a growing rift between the military leadership in Gaza and the political leadership abroad. The reason for the recent quiet on that front is that Hamas is busy rearming itself in anticipation of another round of warfare with Israel.
“Meanwhile, Hamas is working constantly to destabilize the situation in Judea and Samaria, including through the media and social-media-based incitement,” he said.
Echoing a recent report by the Middle East Quartet, Argaman also criticized the Palestinian Authority’s weak response to terrorism. While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not encourage terrorism, Argaman said, his policy toward Israel was still adversarial.
“The fact that Abbas did not sufficiently condemn terror attacks against Israel led to an increase in both incitement and terrorism,” Argaman said, and added: “More condemnation by Abbas would cause a decline in the level of incitement and, as a consequence, a decline in the level of terrorism.”