A MAN approaches a Tel Aviv bar, takes his father’s submachine gun, calmly aims it at youngsters enjoying a drink and pulls the trigger, killing two and injuring others.
He flees, and remains on-the-run for days. At home, children are kept indoors. In cafes, people talk. Why? Was he trained? Sponsored? Inspired by ISIS? Paris? Given his history of violence and access to family weapons, why weren’t they watching him? Why can’t they find him? Did they drop the ball? What does this mean for Israel’s fight against terror?
Let’s start with ‘why’. Weknow the suspect tried to snatch a soldier’s gun in 2007 to avenge his cousin’s killing, so we assume his motivation is at least part-personal. There is no known links to terror groups, but nor has there been for any other “lone wolf” attackers who have killed some two dozen Israelis in recent months.
The suspect was radicalised, yes, but in Israel these days, what does that even mean? If it means he wanted to kill Jews because he hated them, blamed them, saw them as enemies, his mind-set is tragically not unique.
Yet what he did was different. This was no dusty road near contested ground, it was Israel’s cosmopolitan heart, a supposedly-secure inner sanctuary.
Moreover, he is an Israeli vitizen, and despite Justice Tzila Keinan earlier having agreed that he had “a mental disorder,” he was not manic, lunging with a kitchen knife or screaming towards pedestrians in a truck. He was calm, professional even. He fulfilled his task, then escaped, so as not to be killed himself. He went into hiding, presumably prearranged.
Nothing about it was random. It was all planned.
All the talk now is of ISIS inspired terror, of Paris-like killings by those who know how. The suspect, whose bag contained a copy of the Koran, may well have admired Islamic State, whose leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last week said he would turn Israel into a “graveyard”.
His attack may now inspire copycats. It could yet prove a game-changer.
Let’s hope not. Israeli intelligence leads the world, so this attack will hurt. But they are also overwhelmed. Throughout Israel, attacks occur daily, and this week, when two men were charged with burning 18-month old Ali Dawabshe to death in his bed, we were reminded that Israel’s own far-right was now equally capable of committing acts of terror.
Israel stands on a precipice. Somehow, once again, it needs to pull back.