On the boil: on West Bank violence
The violence in West Bank is reshaping Israeli and Palestinian societies
December 03, 2022 12:10 am | Updated 11:08 am IST
The killing of five Palestinian men by Israeli security forces in separate incidents on Tuesday in Hebron and Ramallah is the latest flare-up of a continuing story of violence and retribution in the occupied West Bank. Organised armed resistance independent of the official Palestinian leadership has been growing in the West Bank ever since the clashes in Jerusalem in May 2021, which led to the 11-day war on the Gaza Strip, controlled by the Islamist Hamas. Among the new militant groups that have sprung up in the West Bank is the Lion’s Den, reportedly based in the Old City of Nablus, attacking Israeli troops and illegal Jewish settlers in Palestinian territories. This year has seen a marked jump in attacks by Palestinians — Jerusalem was hit by two blasts in November in which a teenager was killed and 18 injured — while the Israelis carry out raids in West Bank towns almost daily. The violence is cyclical. At least 140 Palestinians have been killed this year, including 26 children, which is a seven-year record. More than 30 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians.
If anything, the continuing violence despite Israel’s disproportionate crackdown underscores the argument that the status quo in the occupied and blockaded Palestinian territories is unbearable and unsustainable. Israel’s approach is that it can manage the security challenges from Palestinians with heavy force and no concessions. A weak and divided Palestinian leadership means that there is no organised, collective voice to negotiate with the Israelis. The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, is led by Fatah, while the overpopulated Gaza Strip, on the Mediterranean coast, is ruled by its rival Hamas. Still, the situation is beyond Israel’s control. The absence of a peace process, a deepening of the occupation and pent-up frustration with their own leadership have led a new generation of Palestinians in the West Bank to embrace violence and militancy, recalling the days of the second Intifada. The return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister could make the situation worse as some of his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies want the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to be expanded and “disloyal” Arab citizens of Israel expelled. The slow death of the two-state formula and growing violence are bad news for the occupiers and the occupied. While it is making Palestinian lives extremely difficult, the unending conflict is reshaping Israeli society as well, which is becoming polarised with the clergy, far-right nationalists and extremists wielding an outsize influence on politics and governance.