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Israel’s security officials warn of a West Bank eruption, and they are right

gaza
(File photo: AFP)
gaza

Osama Al Sharif

The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

Sunday’s attack on a bus carrying Israeli soldiers in the occupied Jordan Valley by three armed Palestinians, which injured at least six, should not come as a surprise, least of all to the Israeli government. Israeli security officials have been warning that the West Bank is a tinderbox that could explode any time. They talked about a third Intifada in the making. Some even hinted that the fragile security situation in the West Bank could be more dangerous than the one in Gaza.اضافة اعلان

The attack, carried out by three relatives, one of whom carries an Israeli ID card, was claimed by Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, but it is more likely that this was one more case of a lone wolf attack, the kind of which Israel has not been able to predict and foil despite the fact that for weeks it has been intensifying its raids against Palestinian towns and refugee camps to round up suspected activists.

In most of these raids Israeli soldiers were accused of gunning down — in cold blood — young Palestinian activists whose crime was to resist the occupation.

The killing spree has resulted in the assassination of no less than 140 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank since the beginning of this year — including women and children. Hundreds have been arrested and most are being held in administrative detention without being charged.

With all kinds of constraints under occupation and with the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing control over the Palestinian population, it is no wonder that Israeli security officials are warning of a sudden eruption in the West Bank. A new Intifada will have dire consequences for Israelis and Palestinians, although not in equal measure. Israel’s decades-old ruthless occupation is reaching a climax point.

What makes this round of violence different? First, the PA is out of touch with its own people and is unable to provide protection to millions of Palestinians who, at least in theory, live under its control.

Second, the PA is unable to chart a way out of years of political stalemates that have encouraged successive Israeli governments to push for more settlement building, more expropriation of Palestinian lands, more collective punishments, more demolition of Palestinian homes, all the while looking the other way as Jewish settlers attack Palestinians in their homes and fields.

And third, with the waning of the PA influence, other players are stepping in, like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and even young Fatah activists who are frustrated with an ailing and submissive leadership.

While Israel’s short-sighted and brutal policy is going on — with zero accountability — Israeli politicians are engaged in heated election campaigns that have one thing in common: not a single mention of a political settlement with the Palestinians.

It is staggering that the fight today in Israel is between the right, the religious right, and the far right, and none believes in reaching a peaceful settlement that culminates in giving the Palestinians the right to self-determination.

For successive, and future, Israeli governments the only way to deal with Palestinian resistance to occupation, which now inches closely toward partitioning  what remains of the West Bank and keeping Palestinian urban areas isolated from each other, is through sheer force. But the reality is that Israel’s so-called “lawn mowing” policy is, at the end of the day, a zero-sum equation as Sunday’s attack has underlined.
Israel’s attempt to subjugate almost three million Palestinians in the West Bank, by force or through a lopsided policy of providing economic dividends, will be short lived. No amount of US or European aid to the PA will help stem the anger and frustration that is building up in the West Bank. We are slowly but surely arriving at a point of reckoning.
With no glimmer of hope, tens of thousands of young Palestinians are resorting to militancy. That is Israel’s fault and no one else’s. This is happening as Israeli voters lean more to the right and the far right with every election cycle. So much so that extremist and openly racist Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was once banned from joining the army because of his extremist ideology, is now surging ahead in the polls for the November elections. Former premier Benyamin Netanyahu is clubbing together one of the most radical coalitions in Israel’s history. He, too, is now ahead in the polls.

The secular left in Israel is seen as an enemy within by the settlers and the religious right.

Marginal and isolated calls of open and wholesale transfer of Palestinians are slowly becoming components of mainstream party platforms with unmistakably racist tones.

Israel’s attempt to subjugate almost three million Palestinians in the West Bank, by force or through a lopsided policy of providing economic dividends, will be short lived.  No amount of US or European aid to the PA will help stem the anger and frustration that is building up in the West Bank. We are slowly but surely arriving at a point of reckoning.

If and when a third Intifada erupts, Israel will resort to force to crush it. But unlike in Gaza, there will not be rocket launchers to strike or shoot down, and Israel’s F-15s will have no target to fire at. Israel will kill as many Palestinians as the world will allow it to. But the tremors will travel well beyond the Green Line and inside Israel proper.

Even if the Intifada is crushed — at a great human cost — it will not resolve Israel’s conundrum. The issue will remain the occupation and the situation will remain combustible. The question is not if the Palestinians will survive, because they will, but if Israel can remain united in the aftermath. 



Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. 


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