Huwara is a Palestinian town of over 7,000 people that is deep in the West Bank, partly in area B and partly in area C. The settlers’ rampage of that town is not a one-time freak accident but the indication of a growing trend in violence from both sides in Israel’s West Bank war.
The growth and radicalization of terrorist groups in the West Bank is another indication. As written in the Times of Israel, “From the northern Jenin refugee camp to the southern city of Hebron, small groups of disillusioned young Palestinians are taking up guns against Israel’s open-ended military control, defying Palestinian political leaders whom they scorn as collaborators with Israel.”
Plenty of blame for this trend goes to the Palestinian leadership. They failed to lead their people towards acceptance of the Jewish state; heck, they never even tried. And because of that, they failed in everything else, including in reaching a two-state solution that both sides can live with. Instead of trying to repair this damage, they continue to deny history and to incite violence. There is no question that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank exists mainly because of a dismal failure on the part of the Palestinian leadership.
On the other hand, Israel has a big part in getting to where the West Bank is at today. Instead of occupying the West Bank militarily only, it chose to use it as an extension of Israel’s land without giving equal rights to its Arab residents. Israel chose to transform a military occupation that was justified by the need for self-defense into the theft of another people’s land and the oppression of its people.
Israel cannot win in the West Bank (i.e., end the war on its own terms). How could it possibly win? The Palestinians are going nowhere. Sooner or later, Israel will either have to end the war and admit defeat or it will commit national suicide by annexing the West Bank. Many Israelis recognize this, and yet the movement to take appropriate action towards ending this war has no steam. The Israeli desire to continue building settlements in the West Bank, whether it is for economic reasons or religious reasons, continues to dominate Israeli policies.
The main action that Israel is taking to end or contain the war is to attack terrorist groups, but while attacks on terrorists are justified as a means of self-defense, they are not seen by Palestinians as justified because they are seen as part of Israel’s choice to treat the West Bank as its extension. So instead of reducing violence and extremism, Israel’s attacks on terrorists are amplifying them.
The rational Palestinian response to Israel’s occupation would be to end all violence and demand peace negotiations. It is the rational response because it would inevitably lead to a Palestinian state as nations around the world, including the US, would push Israel to accept a reasonable peace agreement. But there can be no rational Palestinian response if Palestinians see themselves and their land under constant assault.
One could argue that there has never been a rational Palestinian response to Israel exactly because of what I noted earlier, which is that the Palestinian leadership has maintained the Palestinians in a state of denial of reality. But just because something is already bad and has always been bad doesn’t mean that it cannot get worse, and we are seeing exactly that in the West Bank.
Violence is increasing on the Palestinian side and on the Israeli side, and it seems that it will continue to escalate. Sooner or later, Israel will have to choose between either having the West Bank or having some semblance of peace. The fact that it is not likely to be a total peace is used by Israeli extremists as fodder to maintain Israel’s current policies in the West Bank, but surely Israelis must be intelligent enough to see through this deception.
Israelis must also be intelligent enough to realize that the current escalation is exactly what Palestinian extremists wish for. Israel’s actions in the West Bank, including the extremist settlers’ actions which Palestinians see as undisguisable from Israel’s actions, make it easy for cynical terrorist leaders to convince young Palestinians that they have no choice but to engage in a fight of national liberation. This is a gift that Israel is handing Palestinian terrorists every day on a silver platter.
There is also another indication that Israel’s war with the Palestinians is intensifying, and it is the presence of extremists and racists in the Israeli government. Who would have thought that one day US officials would refuse to meet with Israel’s minister of finance because he used language that constitutes incitement to violence? But sadly, this is now Israel, increasingly looking like the caricature that Israel’s enemies depict.
This should not be Israel, and it is time for Israelis to wake up.