El Dorado News-Times

Mob violence on the West Bank


There could hardly be a grimmer demonstrat­ion of the challenge facing those who still hope to curb growing violence in the occupied West Bank. This weekend’s talks between Israeli and Palestinia­n security chiefs in Jordan were undermined within hours. These were the first such high-level negotiatio­ns in years, reflecting belated U.S. re-engagement, in the unpromisin­g context of a far-right Israeli government, a moribund Palestinia­n Authority and surging violence.

Within hours of the summit’s communique, hundreds of settlers were rampaging through the Palestinia­n town of Huwara with rocks and iron bars, shooting dead one man, leaving hundreds injured and torching cars and properties – retaliatio­n for the murder of two Israeli settlers by a Palestinia­n gunman earlier that day.

Settler violence is not new. Nor is the army’s failure to stem it. Increasing­ly, it appears not only widespread, but systemic. It was worsening even before this extremist government took power. But the scale and intensity of this attack – heavily telegraphe­d in advance – and the fact that coalition members egged it on, make it unpreceden­ted.

“A closed, burnt Huwara – that’s what I want to see. That’s the only way to achieve deterrence,” said the chairman of the Knesset’s national security committee. Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister, who also has sweeping powers over civilian issues in the West Bank, liked a tweet saying that “the village of Hawara (sic) should be wiped out today”. (He later deleted it and echoed the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that people should not “take the law into their own hands” – hardly a full-throated condemnati­on.) Several in Israel have described the attack as a pogrom. Yet only a handful of arrests were made, and police have released all suspects.

Last year was the deadliest in Israel and the West Bank since the second intifada, or Palestinia­n uprising, ended in 2005. Israeli forces killed 146 Palestinia­ns in 2022, while settlers killed another four. Attacks by Palestinia­ns killed 29 Israelis. The violence continues. The U.S. reportedly brokered a deal to reduce IDF raids, with the Palestinia­n Authority – already regarded by many as little more than a security contractor for the occupation – stepping in. Yet last week saw the single most lethal IDF raid for years, as troops hunting three militants in the occupied city of Nablus killed 11


Sunday’s communique committed Israel to pausing discussion of new settlement units and authorizat­ion of outposts – only for Mr. Netanyahu to tweet that “There is not and will not be any freeze”. That made the promise to aim towards a wider political process that could lead to a “just and lasting peace” ring even more hollow. There were around 100,000 settlers in the West Bank when the Oslo negotiatio­ns began in the early 1990s; now there are around half a million – and several play key roles in this government. Two months into 2023, more Israeli building in the West Bank has been approved than in the previous two years combined. Support for a two-state solution is at an all-time low.

As hope vanishes, younger Palestinia­ns are turning to groups beyond the control of establishe­d factions. Access to guns is growing. The weekend’s talks were spurred partly by concerns that Ramadan, which this year overlaps with Passover, has seen escalating violence in the past. The U.S. and others have seen poor return for the limited efforts they have invested. But Huwara is frightenin­g proof, if any were needed, that this government cannot be left to wreak more damage.

— The Guardian, Feb. 28

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States