Despite Israeli counter terror operations, especially in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), there was a sharp rise in Palestinian attacks against Jews last year, as well as violent crimes involving Israeli Arabs and Bedouins. The increased number of murders, and the proliferation of weapons, is in addition to the Hamas massacre that occurred in southern communities on October 7, 2023. It has become a core national security concern for Israel.
The ability to acquire unlicensed and illegal weaponry by Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, and Bedouins has gone beyond the count of half a million acquired weapons that were declared by Israel decades ago.
David Weinberg is a government relations and foreign affairs specialist based in Israel, who recently gave an assessment of Israel’s internal security situation in a zoom briefing hosted by Israel’s Defense Security Forum (IDSF).
According to Weinberg, Israel’s enemies are well-armed and have a sophisticated ability to attack Israel within the country.
Weinberg explained that in 2022, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) boasted how they were responsible for getting weapons to Palestinians engaged in both terrorism and crimes against Israel. Part of the problem is Israel’s porous borders, including its border with Jordan. Arms have been stolen from Israel’s armories and the IDF’s ammunition warehouse, including 30,000 bullets in October 2023. Another 70,000 bullets and grenades were stolen from an IDF base on the Golan, also in October.
Weinberg said, “All this goes back to the beginning of the Olso process. The dirty secret behind the untamed epidemic of weapons now plaguing Israel is that it all started with the Oslo Accords, when Yasser Arafat set up 16 different competing militias (security organizations) and gave them guns.”
In the beginning of the Oslo process, Israel tried to control the use of weapons by the Palestinian Authority (PA). A ballistic signature was required of every gun and rifle that was registered and given to the PA, but the accountability failed.
According to Weinberg, “the Oslo error of enthusiasm for strengthening the PA, went to a ‘helter skelter’ transfers of arms, and Israel soon lost track of the weapons.”
Meanwhile, Bedouins and Israeli Arabs developed a weapons economy, integrating thieves, smugglers, suppliers, and manufacturers into their illegal operations. They have continued to serve Iran by engaging in the terrorist and criminal markets. Weinberg reiterated, “As I said, this is one more sad legacy of the Oslo error.”
Over the past three months, the IDF has not widely reported its military operations being carried out in the Palestinian territories, especially in Jenin and Tulkarm. Yet, they have conducted aggressive raids of weapons manufacturing facilities, while cracking down on terrorist cells.
This has not been an easy mission for the IDF, said Weinberg, who understands how difficult it is for Israel. “To go into the refugee camps of Jenin, the army has to go in, today, in full battle compliment with tanks, armored personal carriers, combat helicopters, attack drones, almost like the maneuvers inside Gaza. That is how hostile the territory has become, and how well-equipped the terrorists have been.”
In addition, Israel has finally cracked down on car thieves. The Palestinian police forces have used Israeli stolen cars for years. Only now, is Israel doing something about it.
“The threat remains real, the problem remains significant,” stated Weinberg. In addition, he said, “There are Arab and Bedouin criminal gangs both in the Negev and the Galilee that rule the roost.”
These gangs have penetrated some Israeli military bases, IDF firing zones, and training grounds, stealing ammunition and weapons. This has become a black-market business.
Weinberg explained, “The issue of Bedouin criminal gangs is a much broader issue because it goes to almost all aspects of the business economy, especially in the Negev where Bedouin criminal gangs run protection units to which almost everybody pays protection money beginning with the major infrastructure providers.”
Israel Railways, Mekorot water company, and the Israel Electric Corporation, along with major HMO’s, and mobile phone businesses, were mentioned by Weinberg. He described the outcome of what happens if these businesses don’t comply. “They are all paying for security services which are front organizations for Bedouin criminal gangs. And, if you don’t do that, your infrastructure is either stolen or destroyed overnight. It’s a significant challenge to Israeli sovereignty and governance, particularly in the Negev, but also in the Galilee.”
One of the most pressing issues for Israel is the lack of effective civilian defense forces, nationwide. After the Hamas massacre of Israeli civilians in southern communities on October 7, there were reports of Hamas operatives who were on the loose throughout the country. Until they were found by Israel’s security forces, communities were on high alert. This threatened the defense of Israel’s home front, and is of much concern to Israeli leaders today.
Weinberg acknowledged this problem. “We know that the rapid response civilian security squads in the Gaza envelope area were far and few between. Even fully equipped, they were not able to stave off the Hamas invaders on October 7. In many places local residents fought heroically and were gunned down.”
Weinberg added that it took many hours for IDF organized units of responders to enter the fray and fight back. “Therefore, the training and equipment of civilian rapid response squads on a massive scale, everywhere in this country, is more necessary and urgent than ever. And, this requires both government investment and volunteer civilian mobilization. I think the threat is real,” Weinberg admitted.
While some residents have prepared for such scenarios, considering a possible invasion of their communities by Israel’s enemies, it’s been more of a grass roots effort until now. However, the fact that Iran had plans for a broad scale invasion of Israel on multi fronts, has resulted in Israeli officials taking a deeper look at Israel’s internal security.
Weinberg’s assessment is that Hamas beat Hezbollah to the punch in what was expected to be an invasion of Israel from the north before the south. Weinberg has determined that “the Jordanian army has practiced offensive maneuvers right up to the Jordan border for months. I know this runs up against the moderate image that Jordan likes to portray for itself, but it’s a fact. Israeli Arabs have rioted in recent years and blocked major arteries in the Negev and the Galilee, locking down Jewish townships.”
Weinberg claimed that some investigative journalists reported that Palestinian security forces practiced turning their guns against IDF troops, along with practicing the invasion of Judea and Samaria’s settlements and beyond. This includes businesses in industrial zones which are close to the border. These businesses may need to defend themselves before the IDF can get to them, and serious training is already being encouraged.
Weinberg who is a Senior Fellow at the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy, mentioned two professors there that have started to map out zones where there are threats to Israel’s home front. According to Weinberg, the professors are creating an assessment regarding cities and settlements in Israel that need the most professionally trained and equipped rapid response squads. These squads would need the ability to hold off invaders for up to six hours, to give the IDF the time to get to those areas. Weinberg acknowledged, “It is going to be a major issue as we rebuild Israel after this war.”
Another topic discussed by the IDSF is the need for an expansion of the Israeli police, and additional paramilitary forces to provide internal protection on a national scale. This includes the development of an Israeli national guard.
Because of the Hamas surprise massacre of Israeli civilians in the south of the country on October 7, including the slow IDF response, there must be a shoring up of Israel’s internal security. As the war ends in Gaza, this will become a major national priority to stop Israel’s enemies from trying to duplicate the Hamas attack, on other fronts.