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Analysis | Despite the Pressure, the Palestinian Authority Couldn’t Rein in the Violence Even if It Tried

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The sequence of events, which began with an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday morning, followed by two shooting attacks in Jerusalem over the weekend, demonstrate that this is not a usual “one-off occurrence,” but rather an escalation which could spiral in several directions.

In Israel, events are judged based on the number of Israeli victims and the possible responses. Much less public attention has been paid to the string of Palestinian deaths over the past month in the West Bank. The deaths went mainly under the radar in the Israeli media against the backdrop of the Israeli government’s plans to weaken the country’s judiciary, the court’s disqualification of Shas leader Arye Dery to serve in the cabinet as well as LGBTQ rights. What happened on the other side of the West Bank security barrier was to remain there.

From the beginning of the month until last Thursday morning, the Palestinian Health Ministry had recorded 20 Palestinian deaths in clashes with Israeli forces, most of them in the Jenin area. What changed last Thursday morning wasn’t the fact that Israel conducted a raid in the area but rather its scope and the large number of Palestinian fatalities – 10.

The Israeli narrative – that the raid was necessary to foil a terrorist attack and that the targets were wanted members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas – convinced no one on the Palestinian side. In every possible location – from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office in Ramallah to Hamas’ command headquarters in the Gaza Strip – the uncensored pictures of the raid were posted.

Palestinian anger and frustration were felt everywhere, and everyone feared what the future would bring. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s comment last week regarding the prospect of a second Operation Guardian of the Walls, referring to the name given by the IDF to the 2021 military conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, began to look more and more tangible.

Concurrently, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas convened the Palestinian Authority’s leadership and announced that security cooperation with Israel would cease, while Egyptian mediators worked hard on the axis between Gaza and Jerusalem to control the factions in the Strip as well as Israel’s response.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah was subject to pressure from Washington and the Arab world in a bid to prevent an escalation. Until Friday evening it appeared that the two sides would contain the situation despite the difficult scenes and the seeping anger in Jenin. As Hamas called for a reaction in the West Bank, attention in Israel shifted to preparing for large anti-government demonstrations on Saturday.

The painful response from the Palestinian side actually came at two locations that Abbas and the Palestinian security forces don’t control – with two shooting attacks in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The gunman at the synagogue in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood was 21-year-old Khairi Alkam, who killed seven Israelis and wounded three.

In the shooting and wounding of an Israeli father and son the following day, the gunman was a 13-year-old who hadn’t even been born when the second intifada began in 2000. Palestinian factions and social media users praised the two gunmen, and emphasized the utter lack of hope among the new generation of Palestinians.

Activists on the ground from Abbas’ Fatah movement no longer even believe in dialogue and security cooperation with Israel, and discourse about a diplomatic horizon sounds like a pipe dream to them. Even the people in Abbas’ office understand that talk of a diplomatic process is a nonstarter at the moment.

Israel’s far-right government is seeking to respond strongly to the terrorist attacks, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli security officials understand that more force won’t necessarily serve as a deterrent. In fact, it would likely do the opposite.

There are still three parties that can play a role in addressing the situation. One is the Biden administration, which needs to shake itself out of its apathy and prove that it is somewhat different from the Trump administration, not only when it comes to its rhetoric. The other two are Jordanian King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, with whom Netanyahu wants to strengthen ties.

As of right now, one can only hope that a responsible adult will be found to stop the dangerous spiral and prevent further bloodshed.

Article link:
Article source: Haaretz | Jack Khoury | Jan 29, 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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