It’s happening all over again, said Amos Harel in Haaretz (Tel Aviv). For six years, from 1987 to 1993, Israel was convulsed by a sustained wave of violent riots – the first intifada as it’s now known. Then a second Palestinian uprising – this time lasting five years – broke out in September 2000. And now a chain of horribly violent incidents, the culmination of two years of rising tensions, could well prove to be the trigger for a third.
It started with an Israeli raid on Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank during which nine Palestinians were killed. Hours later, rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in retaliation; a day later, a Palestinian gunman killed seven people outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem; and the day after that, a 13-year-old Palestinian injured two Israelis in a shooting in Jerusalem.
‘Possibility of two-state solution lost’
Not a great time for the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, to be visiting the region, said Mohammed Najib on Arab News (Riyadh). It’s the first time he’s done so since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power as head of a hard-right coalition. Blinken called for a “de-escalation of tensions”, but there was little sign of progress on “halting the latest wave of violence, much less of addressing the broader issues surrounding potential peace talks”. That’s because Palestinians have lost all trust in the traditional power structures, said Susan de Groot Heupner on The Conversation (Melbourne). And who can really blame them? They see a coalition run by ultranationalists in the mould of national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an advocate of “settlement expansion and the ultimate annexation of the West Bank”.
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And they see Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), as a discredited cypher. How could he not be, asked Le Monde (Paris), when the PA itself “has been deprived of its raison d’être”, namely, the creation of a state. In reality, the possibility of a viable Palestine – of securing the much-touted “two-state solution” – vanished long before this coalition, the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, came to power six weeks ago. The total lack of trust between the two sides and the way in which Israeli colonisation of the West Bank keeps eating away at territory that might have formed that state, have killed the idea. And of course when all hope has disappeared from the political horizon, the temptation of armed struggle gains in strength.
If that helps explain the motives of the Palestinian killers, it hardly exonerates them, said Liat Collins in The Jerusalem Post. People who open fire on worshippers leaving a “house of prayer” are simply murderous terrorists. And yet, Palestinians celebrated their brutality by letting off fireworks in the streets. Even so, to respond to the attack by instructing the security forces to demolish 14 homes belonging to Palestinians, as Ben-Gvir did last week, just serves to escalate the cycle of violence, said Gershon Baskin in the same paper.
‘Time for Biden to get tough’
People who go on suicide missions to kill Israelis do not in fact come from very religious, poor families, as we used to assume. No; as a recent survey has shown, they invariably tend to be quite well educated: what seems to have been the driving motive in almost every case, was having a relative who’d been killed by Israeli security forces, or having a family home destroyed by them. Blinken and Netanyahu spoke of “an enduring bond between their countries” during the visit, said Michael Crowley in The New York Times. But that bond is distinctly fragile. President Biden is suspicious of Netanyahu’s close ties to US Republicans and is horrified by his plans to assert more political control over the judiciary.
As he should be, said James Traub in Foreign Policy (Washington): it is the first sign that liberal democracy is being “loosed from its moorings”. Time, perhaps, for Biden to get tough. Israel has long felt that nothing can jeopardise its security relationship with the US. If Washington were to stop blocking each and every UN resolution condemning Israeli aggression; if it were to start reassessing the $3.8bn of military aid the US sends Israel every year, we might just see Netanyahu taking steps to try to avert another conflict with Palestine.
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