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Ofer Bronchtein: "There is an urgent need to prevent the conflagration in the West Bank"

2023-12-01T15:08:26.243Z

Highlights: Ofer Bronchtein is president of the International Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in the Middle East. He says settlements have been expanding wildly in the West Bank. Palestinian youth have almost no faith in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, he says. The release of Marwan Barghouti, former leader of an armed Fatah faction, would send a strong signal, Bronchstein says. It could bring the Palestinian factions together and lead them to difficult but promising negotiations with Israel.


FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE - While the eyes of the international community are riveted on Gaza, settlements are expanding in the West Bank, warns the president of the International Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in the Middle East.


Ofer Bronchtein is president of the International Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in the Middle East, an NGO that promotes dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. The author is a former aide to Yitzhak Rabin, the Labor prime minister of the State of Israel, co-signatory of the Oslo Accords with Yasser Arafat in 1993 and assassinated in 1995.

In Jerusalem on Thursday, November 30, an attack killed four people and wounded at least five. The Islamist terrorists of Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement. Inspired by "their successes" in Gaza, they seem determined to ignite the powder keg in the West Bank, where Jewish extremists have intensified their abuses against Palestinian civilians by taking advantage of a certain laxity on the part of the Israeli army.

In recent weeks, as the eyes of the international community have been on Gaza, settlements have been expanding wildly in the West Bank. Taking advantage of the climate of fear that descended on the region, the settlers laid down the law. They took advantage of the war to establish new outposts, build roads around settlements and connect them to other dwellings. Their goal? Spread terror and expel Palestinians. Their means? Fires, vandalism, beatings, shootings. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed since the October 7 attacks, largely by settlers. The Israeli government, far from condemning these acts, is giving these extremists carte blanche. These violent acts open up an additional war front for Israel that contributes to the ongoing earthquake in the region.

Palestinian youth have almost no faith in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.

Ofer Bronchtein

In the heart of Palestinian cities, Hamas is no longer hiding. On the contrary, its presence is visible and conspicuous. He is proud of his "success" on October 7. In recent years, several cities in the West Bank have witnessed an upsurge in armed resistance and have suffered the consequences of it, through a series of raids carried out by Israeli forces. These interventions have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals, including both militants and civilians, and have contributed to increased Palestinian support for armed Islamist movements. Palestinian youth have almost no faith in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. Many call President Mahmoud Abbas a "traitor" and now show their support for Hamas. In the coming months, the Palestinian Authority will experiment with radical changes. It will have to reinvent itself to counter the rise of Hamas and offer young people a platform for political action free from its ills, corruption and inertia. As such, the release of Marwan Barghouti, former leader of an armed Fatah faction, would send a strong signal. He is well acquainted with Israeli society. It could bring the Palestinian factions together and lead them to difficult but promising negotiations with Israel.

Read alsoHostage agreement between Israel and Hamas, the underside of the cards

On the other side of the Jordan River, Jordan's King Abdullah II and his government are worried that acts of violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinian civilians could worsen the conflict and plunge the region into a deep crisis. In Jordan, where the majority of the population is of Palestinian origin, there is growing concern about the risk of a mass expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank. At the same time, the authorities are trying to control the anger of the streets, where tens of thousands of Jordanians have mobilized since the beginning of the bombing in Gaza. On November 11, security forces arrested 25 men who were planning to stage a sit-in near a mosque near the West Bank border. This instability threatens to further undermine the already precarious peace agreements between Israel and Arab countries, including the one with Jordan, raising fears of a collapse of the diplomatic normalization that began three decades ago.

The fire threatens to spread to the West Bank. The Israeli economy minister's irresponsible announcement that Indian workers would come to replace Palestinian jobs in Israel and the settlements, which are a vital resource for one and a half million Palestinians, has provoked anger and protest from financial institutions. Large Israeli companies are starting to lay off workers en masse. Israel's border closures and suspension of work permits have already led to a sharp loss of income for thousands of Palestinians, amid a sharp slowdown in the West Bank's economy, exacerbated by Israeli state restrictions and acts of violence perpetrated by some settlers.

The Israeli far right and Hamas share the same goal: to provoke violence from each other.

Ofer Bronchtein

In the face of chaos, the Authority is perceived as corrupt and powerless, rightly or wrongly. In Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus, secular Palestinians fear Hamas' takeover of the West Bank, or a revolt. An intifada could destroy the Palestinian Authority once and for all. Its decline would jeopardize the support of Europe and the Americans. Israel needs us and the United States more than ever, demanding minimal harm to civilians in Gaza and maximum stability in the West Bank. Despite the White House's concerns, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has tried to block the transfer of residential tax money to the Palestinian Authority, allocating more to settlements and religious nationalists. Foreign Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir called on the army to use a destructive force similar to that of Gaza in the West Bank. He and another minister initiated a debate in parliament calling for the legalisation of the death penalty for terrorists, while families of hostages begged the government not to discuss the issue as long as their loved ones are at risk of death.

Israel's far right is seeking to weaken the already precarious regime of Mahmoud Abbas and put Prime Minister Netanyahu and much of his government in a difficult position. Its aim is to eliminate the already remote possibility of reaching a peace agreement, the creation of a Palestinian State, where the two peoples would live as good neighbours and in security. This would require a renewed Palestinian Authority controlling Gaza and the West Bank, as well as an Israeli government purged of the most radical elements and its far-right allies.

Read alsoIsrael-Hamas conflict: IDF faces the challenges of underground warfare

The Israeli far right and Hamas share the same goal: to provoke violence from each other. Encourage chaos. The Messianic Israeli Jews, crazy about God, want apartheid or the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank. Today, these extremists who have come to power dictate their will. At a time when Western leaders, led by Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, are openly calling for a two-state solution, it is high time that Israel burst the abscess of the occupation that has undermined the moral foundation of the state and its security for 56 years.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-12-01

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