For the past month tension has been escalating in Jerusalem as rumors spread amongst Palestinians that Israel was about to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, and Palestinian youth responded with what were at first, random acts of violence. As a pattern of Palestinians stabbing Israelis has emerged, however, “lone wolf” attacks seem like they could be on the verge of morphing into a more organized movement, uprising or even a third intifada due to incitement from Palestinian leaders and influential groups.
As tensions have simmered in recent weeks, U.S., Israeli, and international leaders have called on Palestinian leaders to refrain from inciting further violence, but frankly the opposite seems to be happening.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly made statements that have only served to further exacerbate the situation. In the meantime, as the sporadic attacks have increased in number and regularity and have developed a similar methodology (stabbings), other Palestinian groups have joined the chorus of incitement.
Hamas has endorsed the attacks, called for further confrontation with Israel and “declared” an intifada. Hezbollah has also endorsed the stabbings attacks and called for a new intifada. Islamic Jihad has gone so far as to claim responsibility for one of the Jerusalem attacks, also declaring a third intifada in the process. With Gaza sermons calling for increased violence and protests there becoming more coherent in their adoption of the “stabbing intifada” symbolism and bearing hallmarks of greater organization, a worrying trend is certainly emerging.
And who is behind all of these groups? Iran. Iranian government officials have now explicitly backed the emergence of a third intifada and offered their support. Of course, it is long been the case that Iran funds Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror groups to confront Israel. This support is clearly only going to increase with Iran gaining access to frozen assets as a result of the Nuclear Deal. It is a condemnation of the international community's lack of foresight that as the deal was being adopted last week, Iranian funded groups were declaring a third intifada against Israel, with Iranian support. There have even been accusations of direct Iranian involvement in the stabbings.
As the Palestinian simmer approaches a boil, and simultaneously becomes more organized and more centrally controlled, it is the exact wrong time to be loosening financial sanctions on the top state sponsor of terrorism. With each passing day’s violence in Israel, Iran’s hand is ever more apparent just behind the scenes. The West needs to do more than offer empty rhetoric calling for calm. The United States needs to be doing everything possible to curtail the violence in the Middle East, and confronting Iranian sponsorship of this violence is one of the most effective tools in the arsenal.