A new wave of violence concentrated in the West Bank threatens to undo progress made by the US-led peace process with Palestine and Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time since 2010 in what would be a tangible show of good intentions, but volatility in the area continues to threaten the emergence of peace.
Tensions flared up again this September when one Israeli soldier died from hostile gunfire in Hebron and another was killed by a Palestinian, a former coworker who wanted to use the body to secure the release of his brother, in prison for “involvement in several terror attacks.”
The above incidents were not isolated either. September saw a 33 percent increase in attacks by Palestinians, according to the Israel Security Agency. “The main increase is noted in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] with 104 attacks, as opposed to 68 in August,” the agency said.
Price Tag Shock
Price tag attacks are also on the uptick. These are acts of random violence against the Palestinian population and Israeli security forces, perpetrated by extreme right-wing activists. One such attack occurred in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah toward the end of September — vandals “slashed the tires of five cars, and spray-painted the slogan ‘Price Tag’ on one of them and the words ‘Jewish blood is not cheap’ on another.”
In June, the Israeli police service revealed 165 price tag attacks had occurred inside Israel and in the West Bank in the past year.
These incidents are getting a lot of attention from not only local publications, but international news outlets as well. The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, The New York Times and others have reported on the frequent attacks, further amplifying the situation and sowing international doubt that Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative will succeed.
Recent violent attacks are so worrisome, “the next Yigal Amir [the assassin of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin] will emerge from among the people who stand behind the price tag attacks,” warned Carmi Gillon, former Shin Bet director.
Additionally, the attacks do not discriminate by age. In the West Bank settlement of Psagot, a suspected Palestinian militant attack left a young Israeli girl lightly wounded on October 5; six days later, a group of Palestinians bludgeoned a retired member of the Israel Defense Force in what police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld strongly believes was a terror attack. Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian who broke into an army base on the West Bank. The perpetrator was “the brother of a terrorist who was killed in 2009 after wounding passersby near the Malha Mall in Jerusalem in a similar attack.”
Israelis vandalized an elementary school and lightly injured a soldier in Jalud on October 9; the next day a group of activists vandalized three cars and the exterior of a mosque in Burka, both Palestinian villages in the West Bank.
No matter what happens behind closed doors at the negotiating table, it is clear the already substantial opposition on the ground will continue to intensify. Time is not on the peace process’ side, and there are no signs the violence will dissipate. Any bid to change the status quo will have to be initiated by local leaders themselves, rather than being imposed by Washington from above. All the United States can do for now, it seems, is continue to encourage good faith negotiations in the hopes something will materialize in the near future.
Whether American diplomatic ingenuity can overcome this reality will be determined in the coming weeks and months, but the current situation is quickly approaching the point of no return.
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