MIDEAST MIRROR 8.10.18, SECTION A (ISRAEL)
Fear of copycats
Israeli security forces on Monday detained the brother and sister of the Palestinian suspected of shooting dead two Israelis and wounding a third in an attack in the Northern West Bank a day earlier, as a massive manhunt for the killer continued. On Sunday morning, Ashraf Walid Suleiman Na'alweh, 23, entered the offices of the Alon Group in the Barkan Industrial Park, near the settlement of Ariel, armed with a locally produced Carlo-style submachine gun, according to the IDF. Inside, the gunman handcuffed Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 28, and fatally shot her from close range. He then shot a second female victim in the stomach, moderately wounding her and shot and killed Ziv Hajbi, 35. The suspect, from the village of Shuweika near Tulkarem, fled the scene, prompting a large-scale search of the area and a deployment of additional troops to the West Bank to prevent copy-cat attacks, the army said.
Following the attack, members of Na'alweh's family and others were arrested by the IDF and interrogated by the Shin Bet to determine if they assisted him in the attack or in his escape from the scene, the army said. In total, IDF troops arrested 19 Palestinians in predawn raids across the West Bank on Monday. A source in the Palestinian Authority's security forces told Ynet, PA police were participating in efforts to apprehend Na'alweh. The source said PA security officials believed he would prefer to hand himself over to them, out of fear he may be killed during Israeli attempts to arrest him, or due to a belief that the PA would not hurry to turn him over to Israel.
The military launched an investigation of the attack to determine, among other things, how the gun was smuggled into the industrial park and whether the attacker intended to take Levengrond Yehezkel hostage, having used zip-ties to bind her hands. IDF troops set up road closures and checkpoints throughout the area, including at the entrances to some Palestinian towns in the Northern West Bank. IDF Special Forces, including the Oketz K-9 unit, took part in the searches. Two additional infantry companies were deployed to the area as reinforcements, along with a battalion-level command company. According to the IDF, Na'alweh had no history of terrorist activities and was not tied to any terror groups, though several of them applauded his actions. Earlier in the day, he had posted on his Facebook page that he was "waiting for Allah." He had also left a suicide letter with a friend three days ago, according to a television report.
Prime Minister Netanyahu warned ministers Sunday that Israel is preparing for the possibility of a military campaign in the Gaza Strip should the humanitarian conditions in the territory lead to border clashes to spiral out of control, Hadashot reported. Netanyahu spoke of the Palestinian Authority's attempt to "choke" Gaza during the weekly cabinet meeting, and said: "If the civil distress in Gaza is diminished, that is desirable, but that is not certain to happen, and so we are preparing militarily – that is not an empty statement."
Angered by the reported funneling by Qatar of aid to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas was said on Saturday to be planning on cutting funds to the coastal enclave. Senior defense officials told Hadashot news that 'Abbas was particularly frustrated with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Nickolay Mladenov, who facilitated the transfer despite the PA president's staunch objections. The halt of some $96 million that the PA sends monthly to Gaza could drive a desperate and cash-strapped Hamas toward conflict with Israel, security officials told the news channel. Moreover, they expressed concern that the violence may expand into the West Bank.
The Kan public broadcaster reported Saturday that 'Abbas had a tense phone call with Egyptian President 'Abdelfattah as-Sissi in which the latter warned 'Abbas that additional measures against the Strip would endanger the security of Egypt, particularly in Sinai. 'Abbas was said to have responded defiantly by saying, "It is the establishment of a Muslim Brotherhood state in Gaza that endangers the national security of Egypt not me and my policies," in a reference to Hamas. A high-ranking Fatah official has accused Mladenov of working on behalf of President Trump's administration and intervening in internal Palestinian matters. "He is a servant of the American administration," Majed Fityani, the secretary-general of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Palestine TV on Saturday evening. "He should… not be intervening in internal affairs. It is not his right or mandate to interfere, but he sticks his nose in everything."
Yedioth Ahronoth reports Israel's national broadcaster is on the verge of losing the rights to broadcast World Cup and Euro 2020 soccer games due to an impasse over transmission to Israelis living in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem. The national broadcaster Kan reportedly bid €5 million ($5.8 million) for the rights to show Israel's games in the early round of the two international soccer competitions. The contract with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), however, states that Kan may only broadcast the matches within the so-called Green Line, and not in what UEFA defined as "Palestinian territories." This condition would mean that Israelis living in settlements or in East Jerusalem would be unable to watch the matches – a condition unacceptable to Kan.
In political news, a new party headed by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz would take 12 parliamentary seats in a general election, according to a poll by Hadashot released on Sunday. Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud would take 29 seats, while Yesh Atid would be the second-largest party with 13 and Zionist Union would fall to 10 seats in the first election since Avi Gabbay became its chairman, the poll said. If Gantz decides not to run, Likud would take 32 seats – two more than in the last poll conducted by Hadashot. In this scenario, Yesh Atid, led by Chairman Yair Lapid, would be the second-largest party with 18 seats. Trailing behind are Zionist Union with 12, the Joint List with 12 and Habayit Hayehudi with 10. According to the poll, Kulanu and United Torah Judaism would each receive seven seats, while Meretz and a party headed by Orli Levi- Abekasis would each receive six. Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas would each receive five seats. Netanyahu said last month that in the next election, "35 seats would be acceptable and 40 is our aim."
Meanwhile, all three heads of the parties inside Prime Minister Netanyahu's coalition attended a meeting with him yesterday. The group emerged convinced that he intends to advance the next election to February or March 2019, sources close to them said. The meeting was attended by Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon, Shas chairman Arye Deri and Habayit Hayehudi head Naftali Bennett. After hearing Netanyahu speak about how difficult it would be to resolve disputes over conscription and conversion, they got the impression that he would prefer an early election.
In another development, Prime Minister Netanyahu's wife appeared at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Sunday for the opening of her trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust, sitting in the courtroom for the first time as a criminal defendant. Sara Netanyahu, along with Ezra Saidoff, a former deputy director general of the Prime Minister's Residence, face charges of fraud and breach of trust for allegedly overspending roughly NIS 360,000 ($100,000) on private meals at the prime minister's official residence, even when there was a full-time chef on staff. The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing, and say they are the victims of a political witch hunt driven by a hostile media. Sitting behind her defense team for the 45-minute long pre-trial deliberations, Sara Netanyahu appeared anxious and at times visibly distressed as the prosecution read from her indictment alleging she had abused her position to purposefully defraud the state.
Finally, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to meet soon for the first time since a Russian spy plane was downed over Syria by Syrian forces as they fired on attacking Israeli jets last month.
NO LONE-WOLF: Yossi Yehoshua in Yedioth Ahronoth affirms the fear in the security system is that the attack yesterday will inspire copycats, which in the prevailing mood in the West Bank will attempt to carry out similar acts.
"Like the terrorists who carried out the terror attacks in Itamar and Halamish, the terrorist who carried out the attack yesterday also had no background in terrorist activity. On the face of it, he has all the characteristics of the lone-wolf terrorist: No organizational affiliations, no prior activities, a work permit, and an employee at an orderly place of work. But in contrast to previous cases, the Barkan terrorist's behavior was professional, and it can be assumed that he received guidance.
The terrorist entered the factory with a rifle in his bag. The initial investigation indicates that the bag he carried passed through the magnetometer at the entrance to the industrial zone, and now they will check if someone assisted him and the rifle was waiting for him after the checkpoint. The fact that the terrorist handcuffed the secretary can indicate that he planned to take her hostage, so that apart from the cruelty that characterized the attack, it must be remembered that it could have ended much more badly.
Immediately following the attack, the IDF and the Shin Bet launched a wide-scale manhunt in pursuit of the terrorist, with the participation of the finest special units. Since the terrorist is armed, the incident might not end in an arrest, but in a shootout, hence the need for action by well-trained units. However, it is quite possible that the terrorist will understand that he is liable to die, and will prefer to turn himself in to Palestinian security and through them to the IDF.
More than 30,000 Palestinians from Judea and Samaria work with permits in the various industrial zones in the territories or in the settlements. To this day only a handful – less than ten – have exploited the situation to carry out terror attacks, including last month's attack in Gush Etzion. The differentiation policy between terror and populace has proven itself, and that is also why we have not seen any closure or siege being imposed on the village from which the terrorist came. In spite of the severe attack, the IDF will seek to maintain this policy and the coexistence in the industrial zones, which help the Palestinian economy as well as the Israeli. But at the same time, it must conduct an inquiry concerning the security arrangements in the industrial zones, in order to prevent such instances from recurring in the future. Although the security checks are carried out by a civilian company, it is the IDF's responsibility to prevent the entry of weapons into the industrial zones.
The fear in the defense establishment is that the attack will inspire copycats, who in the prevailing atmosphere in the territories will try to carry out similar acts. Chief of Staff Eizenkot has already warned that the situation is volatile. Moreover, he raised the issue in the weekly security assessment last Thursday. Yesterday, two regular battalions were added to the Judea and Samaria Division in order to prevent this possibility, but if Abu Mazin continues with his current policy, the incitement in the PA persists, and Palestinian security will not help the IDF thwart terrorism, then the West Bank may go up in flames before Gaza."
BARKAN TERRORIST MAY ATTACK AGAIN: Yoav Limor in Israel Hayom writes that the IDF and Shin-Bet regard the fugitive terrorist as a ticking time bomb. He may not hesitate to murder again, but despite the will for revenge, it is better to take him alive.
"The terrorist attack in the Barkan industrial zone once again proved how frail and elusive coexistence in Judea and Samaria is: Essential on the one hand, dangerous on the other. Through these industrial zones, in which some 30,000 Palestinians (3,300 of them in Barkan, 250 of them in the factory where the attack took place) work, Israel is trying to enable as many residents of the West Bank as possible to earn a decent living.
Studies show that work that enables a family to make an honest living is the surest way of distancing the average person from terrorism. The defense establishment constantly supports increasing the number of permits for Palestinians working in Israel, based on the premise that more workers mean fewer terror attacks. For this reason, yesterday's attack – just like the terror attack carried out last year at Har Adar, in which four Israelis were murdered – hurts the Palestinians first of all. It reduces Israel's willingness to permit more gestures and relief, and even from the limited perspective of workers in the specific industrial zone in Barkan – it ensures tougher procedures, entailing more checks and less freedom.
It is doubtful whether the murderer, Ashraf Na'alweh, wanted to harm coexistence. If a terrorist organization was behind him, especially Hamas, this would probably have been his specific goal, but a lone-wolf terrorist usually heads for a familiar place. This is what Na'alweh did as well; He arrived at the place where he worked, where he was familiar with the procedures, and knew how to get around them.
This attack requires the IDF and Shin Bet to undergo a long series of self-examinations. Some are obvious: Where did the terrorist get the improvised Carlo rifle; Why was the post he published on Facebook not detected in advance so that he could be stopped in time; Did he share his plans with anyone (given that he left a written will); and mainly – how did he enter the industrial zone in Barkan so easily carrying a weapon, or did he get the weapon in some other way, and if so - who helped him. This question should also be addressed to the private security company responsible for the Barkan industrial zone, which will have to clarify whether its people are not working on 'auto-pilot'.
The investigation is supposed to answer some of these questions, but the key man – the terrorist – is on the run. His conduct during the attack attests to the fact that he apparently did not expect to come out alive; hence it is doubtful he prepared a hiding place in advance, and so it is highly likely he will be captured soon. The gut instinct is to wish that he be killed by those who come to arrest him, but the head prefers detention for interrogation purposes, through which the path he used can be uncovered and the breaches he exploited closed.
Investigating the terrorist will also reveal why he used handcuffs on his victims. Did he intend to take them hostage for ransom and then changed his mind, or perhaps had in mind some terror attack inspired by ISIS? Was there a personal dimension to his actions, despite the fact that, contrary to some of the reports yesterday, Na'alweh was not fired from his job in the industrial zone? He was employed there for about three months, and after two weeks of absence from work, he returned yesterday – and committed murder.
In an attempt to advance the investigation, security forces are operating in the terrorist's village, Shweiki. Some of his relatives and friends have been arrested, but there is another dimension to this activity: Putting pressure on Na'alweh to turn himself in order to reduce harm to his family. Past experience shows that the terrorist is likely to be in an environment familiar to him. If he is now assisted by collaborators, they are probably among his closest circle of acquaintances. Still, he should not be regarded as an escaped convict, but rather as a ticking time bomb.
Another concern is copycats who will want to replicate the 'success'. Forces in Judea and Samaria have been reinforced, and they maintain close contact with Palestinian security forces in an attempt to bring life back to normal as soon as possible. In addition to the desire to prevent further terror attacks, this is due to the notion that in the absence of a political horizon, the economy is currently the most effective 'fire extinguisher' against terror and violence."
BETTER TO DEAL WITH SINWAR THAN ABU MAZIN: Smadar Perry in Yedioth Ahronoth claims she has spoken with two people in Gaza – a senior official and an academic – and heard from them no complaints about the Sinwar interview. On the contrary, she heard a sigh of relief – finally a Hamas leader proposing a long-term lull.
"Let us compare Abu Mazin and Yahiya as-Sinwar: Who do we get along with? Abu Mazin, however you look at it, is at the end of his career and does not want compromises. Israel is in no hurry: Two more months, another year, two years tops. He himself has announced he will not run in the next elections, if they take place at all. Sinwar, on the other hand, is 55, and if he does not get caught in a fire trap will continue to run things in Gaza.
Abu Mazin is appealing to the International Criminal Court in The Hague against the United States, but he has a bellyful against us as well. He wants negotiations only with an international framework in the middle, and not only the Americans. Who, exactly, will hold the keys? Take note that the current situation in the West Bank suit both sides more.
Here is a key fact: Any solution achieved, whether with Abu Mazin or Sinwar, will no longer link the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The connection no longer exists. Abu Mazin or his heirs will come to the table with solutions for the West Bank, without dreams of entering the Strip. As it looks now, barring any mind-blowing surprises, no solution will be achieved as long as Abu Mazin is in power.
The Gaza Strip is another story: A dense area, in which two million miserable people live in harsh, inhuman conditions. Only a small part runs its life a bit better. Egypt is closing in on them, Saudi Arabia does not have their best interests at heart, Jordan is reluctant, Israel is preventive, and the Palestinian Authority is waging battles on their backs. There is no electricity most of the day, there are no medicines in the hospitals, shops have goods neatly stacked - but who has money to pay?
A peace agreement is made with enemies, and Hamas fits the bill. Sinwar is now starting to speak in a different voice, offering a long-term cease-fire. He is cunning, knows what to sell to the Israeli ear. No one expects generous offers of peace from the enemy. Sit down, talk to him, kick off with mediators, and take your time.
I got a chance to talk with two people in Gaza this weekend: One a senior member of the security forces and the other an academic. I did not hear them attack or slander the Sinwar interview in Yedioth Ahronoth. On the contrary, I heard them express worldviews and a sigh of relief according to which at long last a Hamas leader has stood up and proposed a long-term truce. True, they both said, until it is decided to aim for a solution in Gaza, Hamas will continue to send people and kites to the border fence. But at the same time, a decision is crystalizing in Hamas to try to find another way.
Netanyahu does not have to respond, certainly not publicly. We have enough senior officials calling for dialogue with Hamas. If Sinwar does not really mean it, Israel is strong enough to deal with Gaza. Still, Sinwar proposes to conduct a dialogue, and says that he does not want any more wars. This is the interview's most important message. Of course, in the same breath he makes sure to threaten that if his suggestion is not met – the violence will be escalated. It will be interesting to see if Netanyahu grabs the tip of the tail and goes for it, or will he continue to view Sinwar and the group that surrounds him as eternal enemies, who must be eliminated one way or another."
DETERRENCE IN GAZA NOT A DIRTY WORD: Yair Sheleg in Makor Rishon argues that it is Gaza's misfortune to be a test case for the credibility of Israel's deterrence, but the current unfortunate Israeli strategy does not permit deterrence.
"For several weeks now, the drums of war between Israel and Hamas have been thundering. Every incident on the border of the Gaza Strip, let alone the death of seven Palestinians at the end of last week, is described as another step towards an inevitable confrontation. Israel's top security commentator explains that although Hamas understands that the balance of power between it and Israel determine that it will receive a very unpleasant blow, still the confrontation is important to Hamas in order to get out of the economic stranglehold it is in and extricate itself from the clutches of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
When the initiators of a conflict announce in advance that this is their desire; what they really want is to threaten a confrontation in order to achieve what they want without it. A famous verse in 'The good, the bad, and the ugly' long ago summarized a basic human truth: 'If you want to shoot, shoot, don't talk.' Such prophecies tend to fulfill themselves: The sides warm up in preparation for the expected confrontation, and the heating ignites the required spark.
This pattern is so familiar to us that were it not bound up in human life, it would have been considered quite boring. Hamas experiences some distress – in relations with Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, or any other party – and the tried and right way as far as it is concerned is to ignite a confrontation with Israel. Not in order to defeat it, of course - Hamas leaders understand they have no chance of achieving that - but simply to squeeze some temporary achievements in exchange for a cease-fire. Until the next round. Thus, Israeli citizens find themselves the sitting target ducks of the Hamas' distress.
There is a moral, Zionist and political value in achieving a peace agreement, or even a long-term interim arrangement, with the Palestinians. An arrangement that will enable Israel to stop controlling millions of people without citizenship, will ensure a stable Jewish majority in the territories under Israeli control, and improve our standing in the international community – even at the price of painfully giving up parts of the homeland and some settlements. But the advantages of a deal are not useful if the price is a high security risk. In other words, any arrangement, even unofficial interim situations, should be based on clear Israeli deterrence. I do not presume to know which tactical security option best ensures deterrence. But you do not have to be an expert to understand the basic principle: Deterrence means first of all that the other side has something to lose from a confrontation, and from every day that it persists.
The current Israeli strategy does not allow much deterrence because it makes it clear to Hamas that in any confrontation, no matter how intense, at its end Israel will still be interested in Hamas continuing to rule. The alternative of chaos or the Palestinian Authority frightens Israel more. Apart from the bodies of unfortunate Gazans – who in any case do not interest Hamas too much, and perhaps Hamas even views their deaths as a propaganda bonanza – Hamas has nothing to lose from a confrontation. It will remain in power come what may.
In conclusion, even a dovish political position, and perhaps especially such a position, should be accompanied by a hawkish, and even radically hawkish, security stance. In other words, anyone who wants to reach an agreement with Gaza and is prepared to accept that it will continue to be ruled by Hamas, must demonstrate to Hamas a willingness to endanger its regime, even at a heavy Israeli price. This does not necessarily mean a ground invasion of the Strip, with all that this entails. This should not in any case be a preferred Israeli option, because its price, especially in human life, is indeed expected to be very heavy. But Israel must certainly clarify, and at the moment of truth implement as well, a gradual price tag of air strikes for any harm to its citizens. Obviously not every incendiary balloon is supposed to make us burn down the Gaza Strip, but every step Hamas takes against the citizens of Israel should exact a much heavier toll from the residents of Gaza: From hitting Hamas officials and government systems, to broad attacks on neighborhoods whose residents harm Israeli civilians – including attacks that will endanger the very survival of the Hamas regime. For in the end, the continuation of the Hamas regime cannot be more an Israeli interest than Hamas'.
This strategy is important not only against Hamas in Gaza, whose power is ultimately limited. Behind Hamas' back, Hezbollah and Iran are examining the situation, and their potential for destruction is much greater. They should be impressed that we are absolutely serious when we promise that any harm to us will be met with an infinitely more terrible blow. It is the Gaza Strip's misfortune to be a test case for the credibility of Israeli deterrence. Despite the real sorrow over the loss of human life on the Palestinian side, this credibility must not be harmed. Otherwise it will be forced to repair itself under much more difficult conditions."
COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT COULD IGNITE WEST BANK: Yaniv Kubovich in Haaretz contends that defense officials are loathe to stoke lone-wolf terror attacks like the wave of three years ago.
"The attack that killed two Israelis in a West Bank industrial park Sunday poses a challenge for political and military leaders: How to respond without increasing the risk of a renewed escalation in the West Bank.
Ever since the violent Hamas-led protests began in the Gaza Strip on March 30, the organization has tried by every means possible to get West Bank Palestinians to join in. But so far, even 200 dead Gazans, thousands of wounded, the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the annual Nakba Day commemorations and the Ramadan holiday have all failed to do so. Hamas' attempts to build up its terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank have also failed, thanks to efforts by both the Israeli and the Palestinian Authority security services.
But now, Israeli intelligence agencies fear the mood in the West Bank could provide fertile ground for lone-wolf terror attacks like the wave that happened three years ago. Starting in October 2015, lone-wolf assailants unaffiliated with any terror group carried out numerous stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks that killed dozens of Israelis. They were inspired mainly by social media, where the perpetrators of the attacks were glorified.
An outbreak of similar attacks in the West Bank now could completely alter Hamas' position in its conflict with Israel, because the opening of a second front would pose a much more serious challenge for the Israel Defense Forces than it faces in Gaza. Senior defense officials still believe the Gaza front could be resolved by a cease-fire deal with Hamas. Defense officials have been warning the government for some time now of the possibility of an outbreak of violence in the West Bank. Just last month, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot told the security cabinet there was a growing risk of violence in the West Bank in the near future, and the previous month, Shin Bet security service chief Nadav Argaman made a similar warning.
While defense officials support a cease-fire agreement with Hamas, they believe Israel's effort to reach such a deal (via Egyptian and UN mediators) over the head of Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas undermines 'Abbas' standing in the West Bank and bolsters Hamas there. Moreover, they say, such an effort makes young Palestinians think that Hamas' terrorism pays.
If the government responds to Sunday's terror attack with collective punishment that hurts all 8,000 Palestinian employees of the Barkan industrial zone, or all 100,000 Palestinians with permits to work in Israel or the settlements, Hamas will be strengthened, and the chances of violence in the West Bank will grow. The defense establishment believes Israel should punish only the terrorist, the people who sent him and the people who abetted the attack. Both the IDF and the Shin Bet argue that preserving calm in the West Bank and security coordination with the PA are more important than collective punishment, which they do not believe does much to deter lone-wolf terrorists.
But after every previous such incident, the politicians have favored collective punishment as a deterrent – often because social media users demanded such action – and have viewed the defense establishment's position as weakness. After last year’s shooting attack in Har Adar, for instance, the government initially wanted to respond by banning all Palestinian workers from the settlement. Today, defense officials consider the situation far more flammable and believe that collective punishment would give Hamas a significant boost among West Bank Palestinians. They are therefore trying to balance the need to respond to the attack against the need to maintain the calm in the West Bank.
Over the past year, the security services have largely managed to keep lone-wolf attacks at bay. For instance, Argaman said recently that the Shin Bet foiled 250 attacks during the first half of this year and arrested more than 400 Palestinians who had been planning lone-wolf attacks. Altogether, the security services arrest some 4,000 Palestinians in the West Bank every year; they also employ sophisticated Cyber-Tech to monitor Palestinian social media. In addition, the IDF has seized 330 guns from suspected terrorists so far this year, one-third of them in the past three months."
SETTLER LEADERS INSIST COEXISTENCE WILL SURVIVE: Jacob Magid in The Times of Israel claims that while some right-wing activists respond to the Barkan attack with calls to halt Palestinian employment at Israeli factories, most local leaders double down on its importance.
"Settler leaders have long touted West Bank industrial zones as beacons of coexistence, where Israelis hire and work alongside Palestinians, providing them with a decent livelihood. But the gunning down of two Israelis by their Palestinian coworker at the Barkan Industrial Park on Sunday morning threatened to chip away at that narrative, forcing supporters of such partnership to defend the practice. 'We will not let this break us,' said Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, minutes after the terror attack that claimed the lives of 28-year-old Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and 35-year-old Ziv Hajbi. 'The blessed coexistence that takes place here every day will continue,' he added.
Just last month, Dagan talked proudly to members of the European Union Parliament in Brussels about Barkan in particular, where roughly half of the 7,200 workers at the site's 164 factories are Palestinian, and half are Jewish. 'There has never been a terror attack there,' he said at the time. (In 2015, a Palestinian stabbed two Israeli security guards at the gate of a different Northern West Bank industrial zone neighboring Barkan).
Even after Sunday's shooting, Dagan's stance remained firm. Similarly, not a single elected Israeli official in the West Bank took a public position against the hiring of Palestinians at industrial zones. The sites are frequently mentioned by politicians on the right in their rebuttals of peace plans seeking Israeli separation from the West Bank's roughly 3 million Palestinians.
According to the Yesha settlement umbrella council, there are 20 industrial zones throughout the West Bank that employ roughly 28,000 workers, of whom some 18,000 are Palestinian. Supporters of the industrial zones argue that the broad satisfaction of workers there demonstrates that Palestinians are more interested in earning respectable wages than statehood and that efforts to divide Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank will only leave the latter population without a source of a respectable income. Opponents of the settlement movement counter the claim by arguing that Israeli limits on Palestinian businesses in the West Bank stagnate economic growth to the point where many Palestinian workers are forced to rely on Israeli industrial zones for viable economic wages.
In the current government, Dagan and other settler leaders have found a receptive audience to their cause, which has led to the investment of millions of shekels in industrial zones over the Green Line. This was also evident after Sunday's attack, when Economic Minister Eli Cohen arrived at Barkan and pledged to expand the industrial zone by 150 dunam (37 acres), calling the coexistence that they help instill a 'security and economic interest.'
But while no elected officials took the more hawkish stance against the hiring of Palestinian workers, a number of far-right settler personalities voiced frustration over the policy, calling for levels of separation that those on the opposite side of the political spectrum have long backed.
Former director of the Peace Now settlement watchdog Yariv Oppenheimer tweeted, 'There is no coexistence in the settlements. There is an occupier and the occupied. Boss and employees. Whoever thinks this is a recipe for peace is mistaken.' Of all people, Oppenheimer's words appeared to have resonated with Tzvi Succot, the director of the far-right Otzma Yehudit organization, who retweeted the left-wing activist's post, saying that Oppenheimer 'gets it.'
Far-right activist-attorney Itamar Ben Gvir, meanwhile, called Dagan's comments in favor of coexistence following the attack 'mistaken and misleading.' 'That coexistence blew up in Barkan today and only Yossi along with a handful of people in the Eztion Bloc continue to mislead themselves and the public,' Ben Gvir said. He called on settlement heads to conduct a 'serious a follow-up' and demand that Palestinian workers 'pronounce their loyalty to the Jewish state.'
In a conversation with The Times of Israel, Ben Gvir acknowledged that no other regional or local council chairman in the West Bank was taking a similar stance, but he suggested that their motivations were economic, given that the industrial zones draw in significant cash to their settlements. Moreover, the Hebron resident claimed that many others in the settlement movement held similar views.
Yael Ben Yashar, who is running for mayor in the central West Bank settlement of Beit El, toed the line set by other settler leaders and defended the employment of Palestinians in the West Bank. 'The majority of them are interested in simply making a living,' she said, rejecting the implication that the actions of the Barkan terrorist meant all Palestinians should now be banned from Israeli industrial zones. At the same time, she acknowledged that patience for such projects may be running thin. 'We would like to live in coexistence, but every time, the other side breaks our trust,' the candidate and former municipal official said.
That 'trust' that Ben Yashar and other settler leaders have been willing to offer Palestinians at the economic level has never been elevated to the political level. David Ha'ivri, who works with the Samaria Regional to bring hundreds of international groups to the Northern West Bank on tours that regularly stop at Barkan, explained that the issue is 'not with trusting the Palestinian people but rather their leadership in the corrupt Palestinian Authority.'
'There will not be a Palestinian state… and the way to dispel that dream is to allow their economic situation to improve,' argued Beit Aryeh local council chairman Avi Na'im, who suggested that national aspirations and economic ones were inversely connected. As for those that will most directly be impacted by the Barkan attack, there appeared to be widespread consensus among the industrial zone employees — both Jews and Arabs — against altering the status quo there. 'We are shocked, but not afraid,' said Yohan Cohen, a Barkan worker and resident of the Northern West Bank settlement of Bruchin. 'I will continue coming to work here at the industrial zone everyday with my Israeli and Palestinian friends.'
Amjad Mughar, who has been working at Barkan for the past three years, expressed concern over what he expected to be an increase in daily security checks of Palestinian workers, as well as the possibility that he might lose his work permit altogether. 'I do not know how I will be able to support my six kids without this job. I really do not know why someone would do something like this,' Mughar added.
According to Moshe Levran, who works as an export manager at Twitto Plus, one of the Barkan factories, 'The Palestinian employees are more distraught over the incident than the Israelis ones are. I sat them down and explained to them that they might go through an extra security check every day, but that will die down eventually and things will return to normal,' he said.
For now, settler leaders are standing behind what has become a go-to talking point in selling Israeli presence in the West Bank. Even before the two victims were pronounced dead, Dagan pointed out that Sunday's attack had been the first one at Barkan since the site was established in 1982.
With defense officials currently under the assumption that the 23-year-old assailant, Ashraf Walid Suleiman Na'alweh, acted as a 'lone wolf,' supporters of continued Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation in the West Bank appear to have little to worry about. But if copy-cats spring up, calls for the type of separation that is seen in West Bank residential areas will likely overpower those calling for coexistence at the workplace."