10 March '16..
The biggest open secret in the West Bank is the abundance of light weapons -- including pistols and rifles -- that Palestinians are hiding in their homes. Unlike the weapons possessed by the Palestinian Authority security forces, these private weapons are unregistered and illegal. They are traditionally fired in the air in joy at weddings and other celebrations. They are also used from time to time to achieve another type of joy -- the joy of martyrdom achieved by killing Jews, which is also a tradition in these parts.
The Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet are holding back from taking comprehensive action against the illegal weapons phenomenon. This stems from a cost-benefit analysis calculated by Israel's political and military leaders. It is believed that a house-to-house search operation would spark a wider-scale conflagration, including the possibility of a new flare-up in the south.
There may be a certain logic to the decision not to act, but the fact is that the number of illegal weapons held by Palestinians in the West Bank is only growing, meaning that the cost of action is getting higher. A future operation would be vastly more complex and difficult than one would be today.
Also, in the current situation, the Palestinians have the ability to decide if and when to use their weapons, which is extremely problematic for Israel.
There are thousands upon thousands of illegal weapons caches in the West Bank. The weapons are used by unofficial militias, criminal elements and terrorist groups.
Since the start of the current wave of Palestinian terrorism last fall, there have been 64 shooting incidents in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Last month alone, there were four shooting attacks just in Jerusalem's Damascus Gate area. Israeli security forces periodically come under fire in the Shuafat refugee camp and IDF forces were shot at two weeks ago during the rescue of two soldiers who got lost in the Qalandiya refugee camp. All of these incidents are indicators of the scope of the problem.
The arsenal of illegal weapons has grown over the past year as weapons production facilities inside homes have become more prevalent, particularly in the Nablus and Hebron areas. Palestinians also purchase stolen weapons from criminal elements.
As of now, the IDF is content with pinpoint action based on intelligence information. When there is no such information, no action is taken. The multiple shooting attacks in Jerusalem this week show that the moment is approaching at which the IDF will have to change its modus operandi and take the initiative.
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