The unhappy new normal in the Middle East

Story highlights

  • Four Israelis were killed and several wounded in a shooting at a Tel Aviv market on Wednesday
  • Aaron Miller: Israelis and Palestinians will be left to cope with this new normal by themselves

Aaron David Miller is a vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of "The End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President." Miller was a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations. Follow him on Twitter @aarondmiller2. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)The deadly attack in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, which claimed the lives of four Israelis and wounded several others, presages what could be a long hot summer between Israelis and Palestinians.

But the challenge goes deeper than just the immediate threat of summer violence. Indeed, a number of factors are emerging to create what could be the new Israeli-Palestinian normal -- one in which a highly functional Israeli state interacts with two separate, highly dysfunctional and weak Palestinian polities in the West Bank and Gaza.
Aaron David Miller
This new status quo will be marked at times by competition and violence and at others by cooperation and coordination. Sadly, it is a road that at least for now promises not a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to a series of pretty unhappy outcomes.
    Several new factors define the new normal.
    First, the attack in Tel Aviv appears to have been intended as a mass casualty assault with firearms, and could signal the beginning of a new trend in Palestinian terror. Of the attacks since September 2015, more than half -- 151 -- were knifings, according to the Israeli government. There were also 92 attacks using firearms, and 43 using vehicles.
    Although Hamas praised the attack, it did not claim responsibility. But it many respects that may not matter. The bloodiest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 -- the killings in San Bernardino -- was inspired but not directed by ISIS.
    In the Tel Aviv attack, two people identified as Palestinians in their 20s from a village in the southern West Bank opened fire in the Sarona Market. Both Israeli Defense Forces and Shin Bet sources say they are concerned that new terror cells along these lines may be forming in the West Bank to carry out similar attacks.
    Second, the recent addition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government of Avigdor Liberman as defense minister will create additional pressures on what is now arguably the most right-wing government in Israel's history. Netanyahu will still make the final decisions, but the motivation to get tougher -- particularly in the face of new terror attacks -- will inevitably rise.
    The Israeli response so far has already been tough, but could easily become much harsher. The West Bank has been sealed off for the next several days; 83,000 Ramadan and family visit travel permits have been suspended; and the West Bank city of Yatta has been blocked off.