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How Islamic Jihad Became Tehran’s Executive Arm in Israel

The recent wave of terrorism that reared its head in recent weeks, which is coming out of the northern part of the West Bank, raises many questions: Why now? Who is behind this wave? As we delve deeper into the subject, it becomes clear that this is not only due to the loss of control of the Palestinian Authority in the region, nor is it due to economic distress, as more than one expert has argued. Jenin and its surrounding communities enjoy economic prosperity in trade, industry, and agriculture. The open Jalama crossing brings about 20,000 Arab Israelis to the area every week. They all come for cheap shopping. In the past year, about a million vehicles passed from Israel to the area through the Jalama crossing, and dozens of trucks loaded with goods, vegetables, and fruits left daily from the Jenin area into Israeli territory. Meanwhile, about 10,000 Palestinian workers with permits to work in Israel pass through the crossing every day. These facts contradict the theory that economic distress is a catalyst for terrorism. The first private Arab university in the Palestinian territories, the Arab American University, recently opened in Jenin and operated in collaboration with US colleges. Hence the question: How did Gaza, the center of Islamic Jihad, remain relatively calm, while the West Bank, controlled by the Palestinian Authority, become the center of terrorism? It turns out that Iran, which is working against Israel on several fronts, planted terrorist sleeper cells throughout the entire West Bank. This has been a slow process that began with covert recruitment, training, and coaching to carry out terrorist acts in various ways. This method is part of the strategic war that Iran is waging against Israel alongside its proxies, such as Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Over the years, the Iranians have learned that the best way to hit is to carry out terrorism in the heart of the country. They’ve been doing it successfully with the help of Islamic Jihad. The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin identified Iran’s connection with the founder of Islamic Jihad, Fathi Shaqaqi, in the mid-1990s, and he was assassinated by the Mossad in the village of Sliema in Malta in October 1995. The center of Islamic Jihad, established in the 1980s, is in Damascus. It is also home to its secretary-general, Ziad Nahala, who was released from Israeli prison and deported to Lebanon in 1995. From his place of residence abroad, he delivers instructions to his operatives in the West Bank. The Shin Bet, alongside other Israeli intelligence bodies, would be wise to infiltrate these networks and undermine Iran’s attempt to produce terrorism in the heart of the country. –Efraim Ganor (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)