The Danger of Settler Violence and Israel’s Policy Shift
The recent escalation of violence in the West Bank, marked by settler-led attacks on Palestinians and the Israeli government’s pro-settlement stance, raises serious concerns about coexistence in the region. When one considers the past and present, it is clear that ultranationalist West Bank settlers are pursuing a long-standing goal: the eviction of Palestinians from their historic homeland. The international community needs to pay critical attention and take immediate action in response to this perilous shift in government policy and motivation.
A Toxic Brew of Leniency and Lack of Accountability
A toxic environment has developed over the last 25 years due to extensive construction projects in the occupied areas and a rise in tolerance for settler violence. Israelis, predominantly settlers, are more accepting of Jewish settlements in the West Bank as part of independent Israel. While not all immigrants adhere to an ultranationalist worldview, a sizable proportion do, and they support the expulsion of Palestinians from the area.
From Retribution to Annexation
The initial priorities of ultranationalist settlers were to defend illegal outposts and exact revenge on Palestinian terrorists. They attacked to dissuade Israeli authorities from removing these illegal colonies. At the time, it appeared impossible to drive Palestinians out of the West Bank, but as the occupied territory grew, so did settler aspirations. Some Israeli figures, including the current prime minister, have openly supported annexation. Extremist settlers now think their vision is achievable with a government that seems more supportive of their objectives.
The New Government’s Policies and the Danger of Expulsion
The dedication of the present Israeli administration to increasing settlement construction and reducing Palestinian presence in Area C, which makes up 60% of the West Bank, indicates a perilous change. Exuberance among settlers is stoked by a recent policy that expedites the approval of settlement construction projects and plans for thousands of new homes. This development can potentially drive Palestinians out of the West Bank and further erode the chances of a workable two-state solution; therefore, it shouldn’t be ignored or disregarded as a trivial roadblock to peace talks.
Although the Biden administration has condemned settler violence and Israel’s failure to confront it, there is a need to recognize the gravity of the situation entirely. The primary points of the statement centre on Israel’s authorities’ reluctance to prosecute violent settlers and the consequences of settlement policies for upcoming peace deals. However, it ignores the real potential of Palestinians being forcibly displaced and the reason behind these attacks.
Normalization of Vigilante Justice
The growing frequency and brutality with which the settlers terrorize their Palestinian neighbours have mostly gone unpunished. Israeli authorities seldom charge or imprison settlers who participate in attacks, and in other cases, security agents have done nothing while these violent crimes are being committed. This lack of accountability sends the frightening message that vigilante justice is becoming the norm. Further undermining the Aqaba agreement’s commitment to de-escalation and containment of violence is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent announcement to construct 1,000 additional homes in reaction to a terrorist assault.
Thirty-five years after the death of Tirza Porat, the chanting of “Geirush! Geirush!” by an ultranationalist settler at her funeral has become an alarming reality. The chances of an orderly resolution in the West Bank are jeopardized by the Israeli government’s pro-settlement stance and tolerance of settler violence. Israel must be held responsible for its obligations by the international community, particularly the Biden administration and Israel’s Arab neighbours, and stop the normalization of violence and eviction. Immediate action is required to protect the rights and security of both Israelis and Palestinians and maintain the possibility of a fair and long-lasting peace in the area.