As tensions in the West Bank between Israel and the Palestinians continue to grow, the West Bank is now the least stable arena in Israel's environment, and the risk of a new, large-scale wave of violence breaking out in this area next month is rising steadily.
Already, IDF personnel serving in the West Bank have noted a significant spike in violent incidents across their sector of operation.
In recent days, for example, an IDF unit in the West Bank spotted two Palestinian men hurling firebombs at Israeli traffic near the city of Nablus, and opened fire, killing one of the attackers and injuring the other.
Viewed on its own, the incident is a deadly, but isolated, clash that did not result in any immediate aftereffects.
It is, however, exactly this type of development that, Israeli security officials believe, ends up sparking larger clashes.
Masked Palestinian rioters hurl rocks at Israeli security forces near Bil'in, January 7, 2011. (Image source: IDF)
Several factors are colluding to make the West Bank the most likely region to flare up in 2015.
The first is the attempt by Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas to initiate a diplomatic confrontation with Israel, by using international legal institutions for his attack.
Aside from the significant challenges Abbas's maneuver poses to Israel on the legal, political, and "international legitimacy" fronts, the PA president may be playing with fire, and end up igniting the Palestinian street.
Abbas's goal appears to be to limit the confrontation with Israel to the diplomatic arena, but his chances of preventing violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces have been decreasing by the week.
Palestinians' frustrations with the lack of economic growth in the West Bank, and the lack of any diplomatic progress in talks between Ramallah and Israel, are filling the air with explosive fumes. The more concentrated the fumes, the easier it will be for any spark to ignite them.
Ongoing incitement to hatred, by both the Palestinian Authority leadership and Fatah and at the grassroots level (such as the Palestinian community's Facebook pages), adds to the tension.
Additionally, any threat to the monthly income of the PA's security forces further destabilizes the situation. The role of these forces -- as recognized by Israel's defense establishment -- is vital in helping to maintain order in Palestinian territories.
In recent weeks, PA officials have threatened to put an end to security coordination between Israel and PA. Although such a development would harm the PA more than Israel, Israeli officials have to take the threat seriously.
At the end of March, the PA's signature of the Rome Statute will come into effect, paving the way for Abbas's plan to initiate a legal attack against Israeli government and military leaders in the International Criminal Court.
It is not difficult to envisage such a development leading next month to a few thousand Palestinians holding demonstrations, which could turn violent.
In addition, as the West Bank and Gaza have a direct and rapid influence on one another, these collisions could have a knock-on effect and reignite conflict with Palestinian terror organizations in Gaza.
The Israeli defense establishment is seeking to counteract these trends, by preparing itself for instability, and working to rapidly contain and control surges in violence before they can deteriorate into a third intifada.
It has successfully contained a surge rioting and lone-wolf terrorist attacks by Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, by beefing up the presence of Border Police in trouble spots, and deterring further attacks by destroying the homes of terrorists behind deadly attacks.
This has been coupled with a request by law enforcement to Israeli politicians to decrease their visits to the Temple Mount site, to ease tensions.
These steps succeeded in preventing the wave of violence -- based on tensions on the Temple Mount -- from spreading from east Jerusalem to the West Bank.
Yet these efforts are no guarantee against the eruption of widespread disturbances. They usually begin with "harmless" rock throwing, which is anything but harmless, and with firebombings, then quickly escalate into armed attacks. There is no shortage of firearms in the Palestinian areas.
Violence such as this bubbles up from the grassroots level, rather than taking on an organized form.
Meanwhile, Hamas in Gaza is maneuvering to revitalize its terrorist networks in the West Bank and orchestrate attacks from Gaza. In recent months, the Shin Bet announced that it had even thwarted a Hamas plot to topple the Palestinian Authority and launch mass-casualty attacks on Israeli targets from the West Bank. It is only Israel's intelligence and security activities, together with the PA's anti-Hamas activities, which have so far prevented these efforts.
Here too, however, there is no guarantee that this success will continue. Although at the moment organized terrorism is less of a threat than unorganized violence, both are working hard to come back to gut the region.