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The West Bank may be on the verge of exploding

Armed men roam the streets, enlisting people to the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Fatah officials call for the end to security coordination with Israel and Mahmoud Abbas is seen as the enemy of the people. Is the explosion closer than we think?

By Gershon Baskin

I have just returned from a work visit to Ramallah. I am very concerned and disturbed by what I heard from friends and colleagues there. The calm appearance of the city hides the sizzling bubbling under the surface. The West Bank is on the verge of explosion.

As an illustration of what I’ve heard from people I spoke with, on the way home I listened to some Palestinian popular radio stations. All of the songs were full of praise for Hamas and al-Qassam Brigades – “let’s hit Tel Aviv with our rockets” and much worse . It was horrible to hear the drums of war and battle calls on the radio.

Mourners carry the body of killed Palestinian Mohammed al-Araj, 17, during his funeral at the Qalandiya refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 25, 2014. Al-Araj was shot with live ammunition in the head the night before during clashes with Israeli army following a mass demonstration against the attack on Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Mourners carry the body of killed Palestinian Mohammed al-Araj, 17, during his funeral at the Qalandiya refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 25, 2014. Al-Araj was shot with live ammunition in the head the night before during clashes with Israeli army following a mass demonstration against the attack on Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I was told that scenes that haven’t appeared for years since the intifada are now all over Ramallah, Bethlehem and throughout the West Bank – street gangs of masked men with weapons calling for young people to join the Al Aqsa Brigades and other battalions – “revenge for the death of our brothers and sisters in Gaza, we are all Gaza, we are all-Qassam Brigades.”

There is no more talk of peace and two states. The discussions on the street and in the cafes are all about the end of the ceasefire and the renewal of war in Gaza. They say the Jews’ war is not against Hamas, it is against all Palestinians, and the Qassam Brigades are the only ones fighting the Zionists, who want to kill all the Palestinians.

Abbas is described almost as a public enemy. Every day, Mohammed Dahlan transmits calls against Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, from the Gulf. Dahlan and other important Fatah leaders in the West Bank are calling on Palestinian security forces to stop the security coordination with Israel and use their weapons against Israel instead. There are calls to attack settlements and to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Everyone is watching Al Jazeera and Al Manar, Hezbollah’s television station, seeing the destruction and killing in Gaza. All day long people hear the repeated calls by Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman to kill Hamas leaders, to occupy and destroy Gaza. For them, these are calls to destroy the whole of Palestine.

The peace demonstration in Tel Aviv this week was not aired on any Arab station and the Palestinian public does not hear about Israelis who still talk about peace.

Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

The atmosphere is very pessimistic; people expect that the ceasefire will not be renewed and the fighting in Gaza will resume. After Gaza, the fighting will emerge in the West Bank.

The atmosphere of the war is spreading and the public appears willing to enlist. They know there is much to lose, and yet they feel that this is a war of necessity – a war to protect their home, a war for Palestine.

Read: In ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is letting Hamas win Gaza war

I know the West Bank well. In recent years I have been there several times every week. What I heard and felt today is very worrying, in part because I also believe that Israel has no idea how explosive the situation is.

There is a kind of complacency, an illusion that what is happening in Gaza does not affect the West Bank. It seems that Israeli security officials and decision makers are completely disconnected from the reality in our backyard.

What happens in the West Bank is also happening across the Jordan river. The explosion when it comes will be like wildfire and will spread across the West Bank into Jordan. It will threaten both the Palestinian Authority and the Kingdom of Jordan.

A Palestinian woman shouts at Israeli soldiers during an army operation in which soldiers killed Zakaria al-Aqra, age 24, at his family house in the West Bank village of Qabalan, August 11, 2014. Qabalan village has been raided several times in the last two weeks by the Israeli army.

A Palestinian woman shouts at Israeli soldiers during an army operation in which soldiers killed Zakaria al-Aqra, age 24, at his family house in the West Bank village of Qabalan, August 11, 2014. Qabalan village has been raided several times in the last two weeks by the Israeli army.

Only a 180-degree turn by the government, which would mean launching a genuine peace process, can change the direction of the horrors just around the corner. But first we must reach a settlement in Gaza and prevent the resumption of hostilities there.

I tend not to display such prophecies of doom, but the situation now is too serious not to be taken seriously.

Gershon Baskin is the co-chairman of Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, and is a contributor to the Jerusalem Post.

Related:
Is the West Bank ripe for an intifada?
10,000 protest in Tel Aviv for a just peace, end to occupation

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      The PA government, despite its current security coordination with the Israel government, since its inception has incited hatred and violence against Israelis and Israel. Palestinian society has not birthed an independent peace movement to challenge the call to the rifle as the best means of resolving the conflict with Israel.

      Coordination of the 25 or so bodies established by Oslo have ceased to operate because of Palestinian boycott to cooperate with the enemy.

      The Al-Asqa Brigades never disarmed but went underground with their weapons declaring that they only waited the call of the PA to bring out their weapons.

      Hamas and Islamic Jihad have for many years been trying to build up their capabilities in the West Bank. The PA has managed and tolerated their activities.

      The Arab street has always remained volatile, willing to come out to riot at a moment’s notice. It always has been anti-Semitic.

      Therefore, it is not surprising that the West Bank could explode, as it might have exploded last year or the year before in the face of the continuing failure of the Oslo Accords.

      The problem is that neither the Israelis nor the Arab Palestinians believe a solution is reachable in the foreseeable future. The status quo and a bettering of economic prosperity for both is the only attainable benefit in the foreseeable future.

      Another intifada will only lead to tanks in the streets and Israeli soldiers in Palestinian living rooms together with great destruction in the West Bank. This will lead to the annexation of the all Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and area “C”.

      The Palestinians may find that the country they could have had has been reduced to Area “A”.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        The PA doesn’t have to incite against Israel. The IDF and the settlers do a great job of incitement. When the IDF shoots a Palestinian with impunity that is incitement. When the home of a Palestinian is demolished that is incitement. When IDF thugs break into a Palestinian home in the middle of the night, ransack the place and beat an arrest family members that is incitement. When Palestinians living in Hebron can no longer walk down Shuhada St and their shops are shuttered and closed by Israel that is incitement. When filthy settlers in Hebron throw their garbage and their feces down on Palestinians walking below that is incitement. When 2 boys who were soccer players were walking home and as they approached a checkpoint were shot in the feet and mauled by dogs that is incitement. When 1500 mature fruit trees belonging to a Palestinian family are bulldozed because a nearby settlement wants their land that is incitement.

        Israel and their IDF thugs and the settlers do a great job of incitement. No Palestinian book or TV show could do as good a job of incitement as does Israel.

        You also spoke of a peace movement. Do you know that as far back as 1983 there was a movement for non-violent resistance to occupation? Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem in 1947, had come to the West Bank where he established the Palestine Centre for the Teaching of Non-Violence. Israel’s response was to deport Awad in spite of protests from the US State Dept. Israel didn’t want any Palestinian to even dream of freedom from occupation.

        You ask where is the peace movement in the territories. If peace means that the Palestinians must acquiese to the settlements, to the lack of water, to the theft of their land, to the imprisonment of their people there is no reason for a peace movement. Israel is the occupier and the oppressor. Lets see a peace movement first from the Israeli government and the settlers. I don’t see that at all.

        Reply to Comment
    2. ishimoto

      I have to disagree… peace will not come from a government. It seems to me like an impossibility in accordance with its nature.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bar

      Let’s all hope this prognosis is wrong, although I fear it contains the truth that there are many inciting forces at play and the interests of many are to force an explosion.

      “Only a 180-degree turn by the government, which would mean launching a genuine peace process, can change the direction of the horrors just around the corner.”

      A genuine peace process culminating in actual offers and far-reaching proposals has met with ultimate rejection by the current and the past leaders of the PA. Why pretend that this is a realistic option? They believe that if they just wait it out long enough, the international community will allow them to circumvent Oslo, as we’ve already seen with their election to statehood at the UNGA.

      Reply to Comment
      • Jan

        Netanyahu has already dashed any hopes for peace. He says that Israel has to keep the Jordan Valley, that Jerusalem won’t be divided, that the major settlements will remain. He now says that a two state solution is impossible while the platform of the Likud party rules out there ever being a Palestinian state between the river and the sea.

        I find it most interesting and telling that there was no talk of a two state solution before it became impossible for there to be one that was viable and that would give the Palestinians freedom from being under the Israeli jackboot.

        The proposals made by previous Israeli governments did not give the Palestinians a real state. It was reported by Israeli peace groups that the proposal at Oslo was for three separate cantons plus Gaza. All three would be surrounded by Israel which would control the ingress and egress, the air space and the water. All that would have been left to the Palestinians would be the right to police their own people, collect the garbage and the deliver the mail.

        Not a good recipe for a real state. The only recipe is for Israel to get lock, stock and barrel out of the West Bank and end the siege on Gaza. Build a bridge, tunnel or whatever to link Gaza and the West Bank. Settlers can stay but their settlements must be open to everyone and their bi pass roads must be open to everyone. Settlers who remain will become citizens of Palestine. They will leave their buildings intact unlike destroying them as did the settlers in Gaza.

        There must be justice for the Palestinians who for far too long have lived under Israeli occupation and oppression. 47 years is too long. 47 years is enough!

        Reply to Comment
      • Whiplash

        What Bar says is correct. It is extremely tragic that in 2008 Abbas did not accept Olmert’s offer for peace or persue the negotiations. Abbas thought that he could get something more from holding out. He got Netanyahu and then thought that newly elected President Obama would cause Netanyahu’s downfall. So he decided not to negotiate for most of the first 4 years of Netanyahu’s term even though Netanyahu imposed a partial building freeze for 10 months.

        Abbas was interviewed by Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post in 2009 and told him he was in no hurry to negotiate, things were good in Ramallah and he would wait until Obama dealt with Netanyahu.

        Six years after Olmert’s offer was made, Israel is still awaiting a realistic offer from Abbas. Netanyahu is in power. Abbas is still counting on international community to impose a solution, which it can and will not do. In the meantime the status quo is not bad for Fatah and its members who control the strings of the state purse and related benefits.

        Abbas’ problem is that he can not tell the Palestinians that they will have no right of return and that any agreement will end the conflict.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Mikesailor

      When is a continuation of building illegal settlements a “building freeze or building moratorium”? In reality NEVER but in the Israeli mind a “moratorium ” existed. Building continued apace however Israelis never believe reality when a comforting Zionist myth will suffice. During the Kerry sponsored talks, Israeli settlement building accelerated. And the Israelis refused to even give maps delinieating their position for final borders (although it seems they will never give up control of anything). In fact, the Israelis have never provided any maps on final borders; not under Olmert, nor Barak, nor Metanyahu, although they continually give lip service about some never-defined “concessions’. One of the strangest thinks is that maps exist showing Israeli settlement and control over the West Bank but Zionists don’t want those either published nor exhibited for their lies son’t compoer with the facts. With each passing day, the Palestinians get to witness more and more of their fellows killed ot injuredm; more and more of their land confiscated for settlements; more and more of their olive trees and other orchards destroyed or stolen; each act committed by Israelis with total impunity. Either end the occupation or allow a one-state solution with equal rights for all. There are no other viable ssolutions. And as for the stupidity of Zionists claiming that Hamas is reponsivble for another intifada, ask yourself: “Under the status quo, if the shoe were on the other foot and Palestinians occupied Jews, would I just roll over and take the injustice or would I fight back?” It is only a matter of time, probably measured in days or weeks rather than years before this whole thing blows up. And the Israelis abd their followers ahave only themselves to blame. If this be antisemitism, then every seeker of justice or truth must be antisemitic.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Jan

      If Israel really wanted real peace and a two state solution they would not have been building more and more settlements. They have clearly shown that the “talks” in which they were engaged with the Palestinians were nothing but a smoke screen to cover up their land theft and settlement expansion.

      In the early 1990s during the Olso “talks” then Housing Minister Ariel Sharon proudly announced that Israel would be creating “facts on the ground” and would be doubling the number of settlements. If I, as an American Jew, knew that Israel really didn’t want peace until they grabbed as much land as possible, surely the Palestinians had to know that as well.

      Finally, it is Israel that is the Occupier. It is Israel that has built settlements, ALL illegal under international law. The Palestinians are the occupied and they have nothing to negotiate. They lost 78% of their homeland in 1948 and are willing to accept the remaining 22%. The Palestinians are the wronged people whose wrongs must be righted by Israel. That means either one state for all or Israel completly getting out of every inch of land they occupied in 1967. The damned occupation is now in its 48th year. 48 years too many.

      Reply to Comment
      • yadid

        Jan, you seem to know a lot. However, at the time of the Oslo “talks”, Ariel Sharon was not a minister. His Likud Party was in the opposition then. And by the way, Gaza and the west bank’s damned occupation did not start in 1967. It started in 1948 by the liberating armies of Egypt and Jordan which occupied these territories until the war in 67.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jan

          Ariel Sharon was Housing Minister from 1990 to 1992. That was at the same time as the Oslo “talks” were being conducted. He obviously wanted to derail them.

          Reply to Comment
    6. TOMER

      I am confused.

      Before June 1967, there were NO SETTLEMENTS, NO OCCUPATION, NO CHECKPOINTS in W. Bank or Aza.

      So why was there war at that time??

      I get the impression that someone (ie Leftists & Arabs) are LYING!

      Reply to Comment
      • Yeah, right

        Such a bizarre comment.

        June 1967 was 47 years ago, which means that Tomer is under the mistaken impression that conflicts – and the aims and aspirations that led to them – are forever immutable.

        As if he thinks that wars don’t evolve depending upon the fluctuating fortunes of the belligerent powers.

        Tomer, sunshine, consider this: World War II started over whether (or not) an expansionist Germany was allowed to swallow a Most Reluctant Poland.

        A mere five years later the conflict was about who would rule the world: the USA or the USSR.

        Neither of whom were there at the beginning of that conflict, mainly because neither of them cared one bit about Plucky Little Poland.

        Odd that, hey?

        Reply to Comment
    7. Average American

      Jan, Netanyahu wants forces in the Jordan Valley because he wants the country of Jordan. The East Bank is next. He considers Jordan part of The Land Of Israel, the magical place imagined by Israel’s Zionist founders. Just look at the map on Irgun posters.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Keith Reitman

      From the Article- “The peace demonstration in Tel Aviv this week was not aired on any Arab station and the Palestinian public does not hear about Israelis who still talk about peace.”
      Me- Nor have Israelis and the rest of the Universe heard reports of the huge mass rallies for peace with Israel held in all Israel’s neighboring states. Fat chance.

      Reply to Comment

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