Perhaps the most important recent news item merited no more than a passing mention in the Israeli media or elsewhere, which, as usual, has been preoccupied with lesser issues.
Admittedly, events such as the anti-disengagement demonstrations in Sderot and Ofakim, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation and the Jewish terror attack in Shfaram are far more dramatic than the dry statistics published by the Shin Bet security service on Aug. 1.
None of the above stories has anything approaching the long-term significance of the fact that Palestinian violence hit an 18-month high in July. The Shin Bet statistics, however, have major significance because they demonstrate that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's security policy, which is based on the twin foundations of disengagement and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is failing dismally.
According to Sharon, disengagement is supposed to radically improve Israel's security. You would therefore have expected that as the date of the pullout approached, and the Palestinians, who were initially skeptical, began to realize that it would indeed happen, the level of violence would have declined.
Instead, according to the Shin Bet, the number of Palestinian attacks in July exceeded the total for any other month of the past year-and-a-half.
Thus, far from reducing Palestinian violence, the impending disengagement appears to be fueling it, which is precisely what pullout opponents have always predicted. Opponents argued that Palestinians would view a unilateral withdrawal, with no quid pro quo, as a retreat forced upon Israel by their five-year-old terrorist war – which, according to polls, is precisely how almost three-quarters of them do view it. As a result, disengagement would convince the Palestinians that violence works, and therefore encourage them to do more of it.
Under this theory, you'd expect the violence to rise as the withdrawal neared. The initial announcement would have little impact, since most Palestinians did not believe that Sharon was serious. But the more convinced they became that the plan was real, the more convinced they would become that their violence had borne fruit. The fact that this is indeed what's happened bodes ill for Israel's security in the post-disengagement era.
The same is true of Sharon's concessions to Abbas in exchange for the latter's declaration of a truce in February. To bolster the alleged truce, Sharon freed some 900 Palestinian prisoners (some of whom have already been rearrested for renewed terror activity), returned some West Bank cities to Palestinian security control (one of which, Tulkarm, soon became such a hotbed of renewed terrorist activity that the Israel Defense Forces retook it), and dismantled many army roadblocks, making it easier for terrorists to move freely through the territories.
If concessions aimed at "strengthening" Abbas were effective policy, you would expect the violence to gradually decline over time. Instead, after a sharp drop during the first few months, the level of violence quickly rebounded to the 18-month high recorded by the Shin Bet in July. In other words, six months into the truce, the number of Palestinian attacks per month is now higher than it was during the entire year preceding the truce. More Israelis were killed by Palestinians in June and July than during the same months last year, when there was no truce.
And that, of course, is precisely what opponents of these concessions had predicted. Opponents had argued that the terrorist organizations, severely battered by the IDF's counterterrorism campaign, agreed to the lull because they desperately needed time to regroup, rearm and recruit. Under this theory, you'd expect the level of violence to drop at first, then rise as the terrorist groups rebuilt their capabilities. The fact that this is what happened indicates that the terrorists are indeed rebuilding, and that, too, bodes ill for Israel's future security.
The Shin Bet statistics thus indicate that Sharon's two main security policies – the disengagement and the truce with Abbas -have been undermining Israel's security rather than improving it.
But you can easily understand the media's reluctance to publicizing this fact. The Israeli press, as well as their foreign counterparts, mobilized almost to a man behind both the disengagement and the truce. And journalists are no different from anyone else in their dislike of having their errors hit the headlines.
Evelyn Gordon is a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.