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Could E1 be the trigger that sparks a new round of violence?

Israeli intentions to build in E1 have both the material and the symbolic significant that could turn into a trigger for a new uprising. It’s time for a new path.

By Jamie Levin and Craig D. Smith

A good number of pundits have recently heralded the demise of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The culprit, they argue, is Netanyahu’s proposed settlement expansion in the area unceremoniously dubbed E1. While there seems to be consensus on a terminal prognosis for a Palestinian state, few have investigated what this will mean for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, which will inevitably degrade.

The timing of the announcement is the clearest possible statement that Netanyahu and his coalition partners do not recognize the legitimate Palestinian desire for statehood, and will take extraordinary steps to prevent it. While Israel failed to block the largely symbolic Palestinian bid for self-determination at the UN, it retains the ability to eliminate the possibility of a viable Palestinian state on the ground. If building in E1 goes ahead, the West Bank will be bifurcated between north and south, and East Jerusalem, the would-be capital of any Palestinian state, will be permanently severed from the rest of the West Bank.

Equally important, however, is the fact that Netanyahu’s announcement acts to undermine the moderate government of Mahmoud Abbas, whose tenuous claims to authority will be fundamentally undermined by the loss of Palestinian land. If Abbas cannot stop Israeli bulldozers, Palestinians will continue to question his legitimacy as a leader.

Against this backdrop, negotiations will seem futile. So too will the non-violent Palestinian protests in places like Bil’in and Susia, which garner little attention in the mainstream Israeli press. Instead, violent resistance to Israel, characterized by the actions of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and others, will prove ever more attractive.

Historically, when other avenues to statehood have been frustrated, Palestinians have resorted to resistance against Israel, sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent. The First Intifada started in 1987 after twenty years of Israeli occupation of the territories seized in 1967, with no end in sight. It lasted until 1993 and the signing of the Oslo Peace Process, when Israelis and Palestinians for the first time engaged in serious dialogue meant to end the occupation through the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Second Intifada began after the collapse of Oslo and with it hopes for Palestinian statehood.

While the narratives, tactics, and consequences associated with both Intifadas are subject to endless interpretation, what should be clear is that both were motivated by Palestinian frustrations with the Israeli occupation. Psychologists term this reaction the frustration-aggression hypothesis. When aspirations are frustrated individuals and groups lash out, often violently.

Contemporary life in the West Bank provides no shortage of frustration. Anyone who has spent even a day traveling in the West Bank will understand the almost super-human patience involved in navigating the web of settlements, bypass roads, checkpoints, and the separation barrier, particularly as it meanders away from the Green Line. And the majority of Palestinian interactions with Israelis are often of the worst possible kind. Violent, fanatical, and destructive settlers are often protected by the IDF. Night raids and home demolitions are regular occurrences throughout the West Bank. Palestinians rarely interact with Israelis in such a way that would engender empathy or understanding (and vice versa). The two peoples couldn’t be further from a sense of common destiny.

Under such circumstances all that is needed for the next Palestinian uprising is a trigger. The catalyst for the First Intifada was a collision between an Israeli armoured vehicle and a group of youth from the Jabalia refugee camp, which injured seven and left four dead. The Second Intifada erupted soon after then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a symbolic visit to the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif, accompanied by over 1,000 security personnel.

Settlement expansion in E 1 has both a strong material effect, as did the trigger for the First Intifada, as well as deep symbolic meaning, as did the trigger for the Second. Construction in E1 will end any hope of a contiguous Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. It frustrates Palestinian aspirations on both counts. Thus, Netanyahu’s recent announcement should be genuine cause for alarm for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Rocket fire from Gaza aside, the relative quiet of the past seven years has meant that a majority of Israelis live in a bubble of imagined security. The bus that exploded on November 21in Tel Aviv is a terrible reminder of the massive human toll that a return to open hostilities will reap. A new settlement bloc cannot possibly be worth the price.

Time is short. The settlement construction in E1 might prove to be the last stop on the road to a third Intifada. Israel’s leaders must finally come to accept that the frustration of Palestinian national aspirations leads to serious consequences. It’s time for a new path.

Jamie Levin is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on the role of weapons in the resolution of internal conflicts. He has published pieces in the National Post, Toronto Star, The Walrus, Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post and the Forward. Craig D. Smith is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is currently a Research Fellow at the Centre for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University of Cairo. He has lived in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Resource: What is the E1 area, and why is it so important?
Following E1 decision, Israel is more isolated than ever but not likely to change course
Palestinian President Abbas: The only leader fighting for the Jewish state

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    1. Khaled Khalid

      Israeli Leaders don’t realize the consequences of their actions because they don’t want to realize it.

      It’s far more convenient to take Jewish Casualties so long as the Zionist Project is expanding further into the West Bank. The Palestinian/Jewish kill ration is usually 100/1 anyway and as Washington is owned by Billionaire Zionists then they can set the narrative as to who is suffering and who started the blood letting.

      Reply to Comment
      • Momo

        You need to come back to reality pal. A long-term solution to the conflict will not come as a result of an us vs. them type of dialect. Deaths are deaths here as they are in the moon and so it should be if we want take human dignity seriously. Get over the for or against zionism jargon and start thinking about why (why!) do people have to die?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Aaron Gross

      “The timing of the announcement is the clearest possible statement that–”

      There’s always something going on, the story of the week or month that dominates the news. Therefore, no matter when a building project is announced, it’s going to be “the clearest possible statement that” something.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jordan

      Editing note: the word ‘significant’ is repeated before ‘significance’ in the header. Should probably read ‘symbolic’, instead.

      Reply to Comment
    4. “Israel’s leaders must finally come to accept that the frustration of Palestinian national aspirations leads to serious consequences.”
      Are you sure the national aspirations are the crucial factor? And not the oppressions, racism, land grab, murder and brutal attacks? From the 1920’s on the resistance was against the attitude of the zionist colonizers, not in favour of a national home per se.

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      • aristeides

        A good point. I think that the frustrations have taken the form of national aspiration mainly because of the way it’s been denied them.

        Reply to Comment
        • Nationalism is a foundational tool for ideological organization in Israel and much, most of the world; it would be absurd to deny it to those occupied in the Bank. The question is not nationalism, but how it shall ultimatley be expressed. Monopolies of force and law severly restrict the options available for that expression. The Wall protests are the only autonomous, regular form of expression I know of. I discard them may be to discard the only jumbled, bumpy path outside of mass deaths (again).

          Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      E1 is an extension on the Israeli claim to all of Jerusalem. If Jerusalem is worth ‘it’ then so is E1. It is also the perfect response to Palestinian actions elsewhere to unilaterally prejudice negotiations in the other direction, where the Palestinians demand the recognition of the Western Wall as occupied territory. If the Palestinians launch another intifada, so be it. There will always be ‘triggers’ or pretexts available for it. The costs of an intifada will be high, to be paid mostly by Palestinians. They are the ones that should be asked if it is worth it to continue avoiding negotiations in favor of a failed strategy of unilateral international diplomacy.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Jerusalem isn’t Jerusalem.

        To paraphrase Lincoln, You can call Palestine Jerusalem, but that don’t make it so.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Fascinating. The Western Wall isn’t Jerusalem?

          Reply to Comment
    6. TylerS

      Great article. Here’s my (hopefully constructive) criticism. “Psychologists term this reaction the frustration-aggression hypothesis. When aspirations are frustrated individuals and groups lash out, often violently.” I think this was awkward. I don’t see the purpose in giving what seems to be common sense a jargony name (people get frustrated and this can change their behavior: why do we need psychologists to tell us that? I don’t think it helps you make your argument). Also, if the technical meaning you provide to the frustration-aggression hypothesis does fit in with your discussion of the intifadas, then it implies that these events were “often violent,” which I don’t think you want to claim, right? There was a big mix of different stuff going on in the intifadas, including a bunch of non-violent resistance, which I know you’re aware of. So it seems strange to connect the psych hypothesis to the two intifadas and then to potential violence in the future. They don’t seem to fit together. I’m not familiar with any of the literature on the causes of the intafadas, but my knee-jerk reaction (take it for what it’s worth) is that it’s strange to talk about a group as if it has a psychology, as if a “group” can get frustrated: a group doesn’t have a brain. It would seem more appropriate to address how a sense of frustration gets generated, communicated, and mobilized within a group of people, rather than rendering frustration as a natural response to stimuli amongst a mass of individuals that gets spontaneously aggregated into a collective action. There’s some social movement literature on how emotions are generated and wielded within political groups and I think they do a good job at addressing when and how emotions matter to collective action (Jaspers, Goodwin, and Polletta have an edited volume on it). Also, I think it would be more interesting to address what mediates between frustration and collective action, than to just point out that frustration can lead to (violent) collective action. Think of James Scott’s first book on peasant rebellions (Moral Economy of the Peasant). The peasants’ moral economy explains when, why, and how they felt exploited. But it didn’t predict when they’d rebel. If you want to explain (or predict in your case) collective action then you need to do more than show that people are getting more and more pissed off.

      Reply to Comment
    7. The corporate Israeli nationalist right always has one more necessity to make on the ground. These necessities are invariably nigh theological, and the Palestinians, that is to say residents of the Bank who are not Jewish, are told, collectively and individually, that their existence shall be quashed to insure the newest necessity. This plays directly into those who wish to once again erupt violence. On both sides.

      I have come to the conclusion that the PA should quickly apply for standing in the ICC, an experiment in human loss and right beyond standard State sovereignity. Jurisdiction would apply to Israelis and Palestinians on the ground, and I can only hope that out of the theater thereby made some shift in possibility emerges.

      For, after E1, I see not how the present regime will allow a viable, small Palestinian State. Rather, the goal is to show that no State is possible because of what “they” are. And violence will come.

      Reply to Comment
    8. The Trespasser

      >and the Palestinians, that is to say residents of the Bank who are not Jewish

      Nice formula.

      And what about Samaritans and Circassians who live in the WB, are not Jewish and are not Palestinian Arabs?

      Reply to Comment
      • directrob

        Easy, international law is equal for all, the people of former Palestine that lived in the land that became Israel automatically became Israeli by nationality.

        The people that lived outside of the Israeli borders but within former Palestine will maybe one day be Palestinians by nationality.

        Fugitives unless they adopt a different nationality keep the nationality of the land they left.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Alas, that isn’t correct. Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war had the citizenship of the British mandate of Palestine. Their citizenship expired with the British mandate. Israel was not the successor state to the British mandate as is made repeatedly clear by denying Israeli claims to the West Bank and Israeli citizenship was granted to all resident within the new state of Israel. Those that fled into enemy territory never had Israeli citizenship. They are considered stateless, which frankly isn’t that unusual in the grand scheme of the world. I too was stateless for a few years.

          Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Oh, it’s anything but easy

          >international law is equal for all, the people of former Palestine that lived in the land that became Israel automatically became Israeli by nationality.

          Whoever resided inside what had became Israel (in +-67 borders) has indeed became Israeli citizen. What’s the problem?

          >The people that lived outside of the Israeli borders but within former Palestine will maybe one day be Palestinians by nationality.

          And what about people who set their ultimate goal to COMPLETELY obliterate the state of Israel – a Jewish one, and instead create the Palestinian state – an Arab one?

          You can’t say that their number is insignificant – we are speaking about significant percentage of Palestinians (though still a minority I suppose) backed up by some rather nasty folk – those who’ve remove Qaddafi, Mubarrak and now are finishing off Asad.

          >Fugitives unless they adopt a different nationality

          Of all Arab countries only Jordan has granted Palestinians citizenship rights.

          >keep the nationality of the land they left.
          And which nationality should it be? Ottoman? British?

          Reply to Comment
          • directrob

            The state of Israel does not agree and you will probably call it crazy but …

            When a state breaks up people get the nationality of the part they live in (It is a human right that you can not rob people arbitrarily of their nationality or property). Refugees have a right of return. If Israel is where the Palestian refugees home is (and the UN general assemblee says so every year), then if they choose so, Israeli is their nationality.

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          • Kolumn9

            It isn’t crazy, it just isn’t international law and most certainly wasn’t in 1947. The refugees have absolutely no claim on Israeli citizenship. The property they can probably sue for. UNGA resolutions have no legal standing and the Palestinians can pass a resolution there that the moon is made of cheese and it wouldn’t make it so.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            When a state breaks up.

            But at the end of 1947-beginning of 1948 there was no nation-states in Palestine.

            The land was controlled by British who (alongside with the international community) proposed that two nations who don’t seem to get along too well would have separate nation states.

            Jews agreed.
            Arabs declined.

            One really can’t speak of robbing of nationality since there was no nationality from the very beginning.

            The Fourth Geneva Convention is not applicable as well because is was adopted in 1949.

            As of compensation for the lost property – Israel had never refused to compensate Palestinian refugees – but since they still are living in futile hope to return there is no discussion regarding the compensation.

            Reply to Comment
          • directrob

            About the right of return in general:

            In the case of Israel just about all countries every year agree with this explanation in a bunch of Israel/Palestinians resolutions, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, United States and you. disagree.

            In the end their will probably be a buyout, but that can be expensive.
            ( By the same majority the view is that the Palestinians still own their properties. See the 2011 UN general assemblee resolutions. )

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Again we are back at pretending UNGA resolutions are some kind of fair assessment of international law instead of being the popularity contests that they are. Or for that matter that the ICRC which rejected the Israeli Magen David Adom as a member for 50+ years due to pressure from Muslim states is a fair arbiter.

            What isn’t in dispute is that UNGA resolutions are not binding on its members and do not have the force of law.

            Reply to Comment
          • directrob

            That UNGA resolutions are not binding does not mean they interpret the law incorrectly.

            The only entity that has anything to say about Israel is the United States. As long as the US vetoes all Israel security council resolutions the long arm of the international law does not protect the people in the land controlled or affected by Israel. The law cannot be enforced.

            According to Israel the West Bank is even a black whole as far as the rule of law is concerned (CAT, UDHR, CRC, Geneva conventions are ignored).

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            That UNGA resolutions are not binding means that they are not international law per say. That they are a popularity contest rather than any fair interpretation of international law is entirely obvious to anyone who pays attention to the way the voting works at the UNGA.

            As long as the US vetoes resolutions at the UNSC they do not turn into international law. There we certainly agree.

            According to Israel the West Bank does not have a sovereign. Much of the case against Israel chooses to ignore this entirely apparent truth.

            Reply to Comment
          • directrob

            The ICJ in 2004 determined that the UDHR, CCPR, CRC, ICESCR and the fourth Geneva convention do apply to the West Bank and should be applied in good faith. Israels position was not ignored it was considered and found incorrect.

            In other words the law is clear. It is the implementation that is blocked by the US in the security council and by Israel not applying the law in good faith.

            Reply to Comment
      • How about the reality: residents of the Bank who are not Israeli citizens.

        Those quashed to squashed are such residents.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Are you referring to the citizens of the state of Palestine that could have had a real state by now had their leadership chosen to accept one?

          Reply to Comment
          • Since you are so fond of dealing with reality, let’s do just that: those living under occupation who were born there and most likely will die there. As for punishing children for the sins of their fathers: I’m certain you’ll go ahead and do that.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Oh, reality? Ok. You mean those that born in Palestinian hospitals, live in areas patrolled by Palestinian police and get educated according to Palestinian curriculum and who swear allegiance to Palestinian flags and burn Israeli ones with no consequence. You mean those whose only claim of being under occupation is the refusal of their leadership to accept a compromise deal and who seem committed to continuing to refuse to do so in spite of the consequences this will have for their children. Their children will have the same opportunity as their parents and grandparents to make peace with Israel, but if they insist on demanding the destruction of Israel then the sin is theirs to carry.

            Reply to Comment
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