The nine Palestinians killed during an Israeli military operation Thursday in the West Bank town of Jenin brings to 26 the number of deaths since the start of the year. This is a clear deterioration of conditions in the Palestinian territories after the year 2022 had already marked the highest number of victims since 2004 with 150 deaths.
This would appear to mark the return of a routine of low-intensity violence if the political context were not so explosive, where we see a new Israeli government in which key positions have been given to representatives of a virulent extreme right, hostile to any agreement with Palestinians, and keen to intensify any crackdowns.
The army sought to make it clear that the number of deaths in Jenin was not due to a change in military doctrine, but to the severity of the clash with members of the extremist Islamic Jihad group.
Nonetheless, the political context weighs heavily. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, severely weakened, speaks of “massacre”, and a call for a general strike has been launched in the West Bank.
[Early Friday, Reuters reports that Israeli jets struck Gaza in retaliation for two rockets fired by Palestinian militants.]
Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, installed in power for more than a month, has chosen a particularly tough direction vis-à-vis Palestinians. That is the ideology of the parties that make up the coalition, some of which support the annexation of the Palestinian territories, are in favor of unlimited settlement development and are openly racist.
The international community doesn’t know how to respond do the new political realities in Israel.
The obvious risk is that it will trigger the radicalization of more Palestinian youth who will not be offered any prospective, individual or collective. We have thus seen new armed groups develop, not necessarily affiliated to the historical organizations, and determined to fight, despite a balance of power disproportionately favorable to Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has denounced the silence of the international community, which clearly doesn’t know how to respond to the new political realities in Israel.
There is however an opposition movement growing in the streets of Israel. Every Saturday, since the return of Netanyahu, considerable crowds reunite in Tel Aviv and elsewhere to show disapproval of the current government. The more than 150,000 demonstrators who showed up last week is a notable turnout.
Luxury of democracy
Still, only a small minority of protesters actually include the plight of the Palestinians in their demands. In order to maintain a broad front, the demonstrators focused their energies on the threats to Israeli democracy, proposed reforms to the Supreme Court, the ultimate check on power.
The demise of the political left took care of the rest.
The vast majority of Israelis, whether they be for or against Netanyahu, has all but ignored the situation on the Palestinian side. This has been the case for years, by now. The failure of the 1993 Oslo Accords distracted Israelis from the subject of peace with their neighbors and the occupation. The demise of the political left took care of the rest.
As a result, the government deals with the question of Palestine with force and the perpetuation of the occupation, without any concern for possible reactions of the Israeli population. The debate about erosion of democracy is a political luxury, reserved for Israelis.