Just 18 months after having lost power as a result of a string of deadlocked elections, Benjamin Netanyahu returned as prime minister of Israel in December 2022. Netanyahu’s strategy with regard to foreign policy, particularly to the war with and occupancy of the Palestinians, is already rather familiar at this point, given that he is already Israel’s longest-reigning prime minister. However, 2023 is experiencing more violence as a result of his reelection and the government coalition’2s reliance on the backing of once-radical fringe groups and leaders.
This current Israeli administration, however, is the most conservative and extremist in Israel’s entire history. It has already spurred Israelis to go to the streets in protest, and it has provoked significant declarations of alarm from former leaders in Israeli diplomatic and security services. Even the present chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces has chimed in with his worries about the country’s security. This is not only a hypothetical exercise in nervous wringing. Those in authoritative positions have been quite clear, both in words and in actions, about where they stand and what they intend to do with regard to the so-called ‘Palestinian state.’
This has been the consistent stance of certain high-ranking members of the administration on the so-called ‘Palestinian issue’ for some time. Itamar Ben Gvir, a convicted supporter of violence and inducer of racism and discrimination against Palestinians, and Bezalel Smotrich, who has constantly campaigned for expanding the territory and the displacement of Palestinian Arabs, are two of the most prominent of these figures. Ben Gvir’s new position as national security minister provides him authority over both the Israeli police force within Israel and the border police force that patrols the West Bank. Smotrich is the Israeli government’s Minister of Finance, giving him, some say in matters pertaining to Israeli settlements. There is no definite date for the occupation of the West Bank, but coalition agreements have already begun the process of legalizing settlements that were illegal under Israeli law. This helps advance the goals of the ruling majority, which includes those who want to undo judicial restraints on settlement construction and other measures in the West Bank (such as demolitions).
Netanyahu’s Declaration and the Open Settlement Issue
In a recent development, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a resolute declaration, emphasizing the pressing importance of obstructing any potential progress toward the establishment of an autonomous Palestinian state. In a discreet gathering with the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed an outrageous and critical message about Palestine, as relayed by the state-owned television network Kan. Netanyahu laid out, “We are making preparations for the post-Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) era.”
However, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent statements coincide with a concerning surge in both Israeli military activities and settler aggression within the occupied West Bank. Additionally, the Israeli government’s controversial move to further expand its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories has only exacerbated tensions in the region. Since assuming office earlier this year, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition government has made significant strides in advancing its housing agenda, with the approval of over 7,000 new housing units. Notably, a substantial portion of these units are located in the West Bank, a region that has been a subject of intense political debate and contention.
In light of Netanyahu’s remarks, the official spokesman for the Palestinian office of the president, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, has asserted that the Palestinian state is not only a tangible reality but has also garnered recognition from over 140 nations. According to Abu Rudeineh, the primary obstacle impeding the attainment of Palestinian independence lies in the need to terminate the ongoing occupation. The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has raised concerns regarding Israel’s occupation and its approach toward the Palestinian people.
Critics argue that Israel’s aggressive actions, such as killings, settlements, and land theft, are perpetuating the occupation rather than fostering a peaceful resolution. In regard to Palestine’s status as an observer member of the United Nations and various other international agencies, Abu Rudeineh has emphasized the imperative for the international community to actively engage and address Israel’s actions and rhetoric that run counter to established international norms and principles.
Israeli Violence in the West Bank and the Responses from the UN
During a recent military operation in the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces executed a critical as well as brutal strategic maneuver. This operation, which spanned from July 3rd to 4th, showcased Israeli armed forces inhumanely conducted striking drones in the city of Jenin. Tragically, this operation resulted in the loss of 12 Palestinian lives, including five innocent children. Additionally, over 117 individuals sustained severe injuries, while numerous homes and infrastructure suffered extensive damage. As a consequence, thousands of individuals were forcibly displaced from their residences, further exacerbating the situation. The observed acts of aggression can be characterized as flagrant transgressions of established international legal norms, potentially crossing the threshold of war crimes, as indicated by the United Nations.
In addition, in the wake of the airstrikes, it has been reported that approximately 4,000 Palestinians have left the Jenin Refugee Camp overnight and purportedly sought refuge elsewhere. In the aftermath of the military operation in Jenin, Israel has undertaken a subsequent incursion into the occupied West Bank town of Nablus, resulting in the loss of two Palestinian lives. The recent Israeli military escalations have been characterized by a deliberate focus on civilian targets, including mosques, residential buildings, critical infrastructure, ambulances, and medical facilities. However, since the advent of 2023, the prevailing circumstances have taken a turn for the worse, marked by a surge in violence. This includes instances of settlers perpetrating attacks on Palestinians, demolitions of properties, and military raids in various refugee camps. Consequently, these distressing developments have contributed to the deplorable state of affairs currently witnessed in the occupied West Bank.
In this respect, in a scathing critique of Israeli military actions, the United Nations experts have vehemently denounced what they refer to as “counterterrorism” operations. These experts argue that these attacks lack any legitimate basis within the framework of international law. They conveyed a deep sense of apprehension regarding the deployment of military armaments and plans by the Israeli occupation forces, specifically in relation to their recent actions targeting the populace of Jenin. They said, “It is heartbreaking to see thousands of Palestinian refugees originally displaced since 1947-1949 forced to march out of the camp in abject fear at the dead of night.”
Why Is Israel Defying the World?
The international community has expressed widespread condemnation towards Israel’s occupation and violent conduct in the Palestinian territories. The prevailing right-wing Israeli government, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, appears resolute in its pursuit of policies that challenge the consensus of the international community and evidently infringe upon established principles of international law. However, Israel’s military operations in the West Bank and Gaza are consistently justified by the Israeli government as essential measures for self-defense against the persistent threat of terrorism. The utilization of the security argument serves as a justification for various measures, such as the expansion of settlements, the demolition of houses, and the unfortunate loss of civilian lives. The military strikes conducted in Jenin have been presented as a counterterrorism measure, although all the developments are symbols of violation of international law. Israel purposefully exploits its security imperatives as a means to deflect and counteract any form of criticism directed towards its policies and actions.
Moreover, the composition of the newly formed ruling coalition includes factions with far-right ideologies, characterized by their unwavering position on settlements and the issue of Palestinian statehood. Political figures such as Ben-Gvir and Smotrich strategically appeal to the nationalist constituency by espousing a platform that includes the commitment to annexation. In light of the increasingly assertive far-right movement, it is imperative for Netanyahu to adopt a stance that demonstrates unwavering commitment to security and a reluctance to make concessions. Thus, populist politics triumphs diplomacy and two-state solution approach. Apart from that, the division between the Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, has undoubtedly undermined their collective strength and diplomatic influence. Israel strategically exploits the current internal discord within the Palestinian community to manipulate the prevailing narrative on the ground. This calculated approach allows Israel to make major alterations to the existing reality, while the Palestinians remain preoccupied with their internal conflicts and splits.
Because of Israeli and Palestinian sociopolitical processes and policies, the likelihood of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue toward a political solution and a repeal of the occupation has remained unlikely for a very long time. This is a product of the fact that conflict resolution in the short term is not a high priority for either side. It’s quite improbable that the status quo will undergo any significant changes in the near future. We are at a perilous inflection point right now as the risk of the situations on the ground worsening, and the irreversible end to a feasible vision of two states.
– Kawsar Uddin Mahmud is a Research Intern at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).
Read Full Briefs as a Pdf [Link]