There has been continuous violence between Palestinians and Israelis in recent weeks as dozens have been killed and hundreds have been injured. The re-emergence of tension between the two started last month when Palestinians accused the Israeli government of preventing them from practicing their religion at the Al-Aqsa com-pound, Islam’s third holiest site that is also honored by Israelis. Since the compound was stormed by Israeli forces, there have been increased protests, violence, and surveil-lance activity conducted by Israeli forces. Palestinians believe that the Israeli government is trying to acquire the compound by increasing restrictions on Palestinians visiting the mosque, even though there has been an increase in “Jewish groups seeking prayer rights, which are backed by senior Israeli politicians” (Al Jazeera). Palestinian activists such as Hala Marshood stated that Al-Aqsa is more than just a religious site, but is “a cultural symbol and a symbol of our heritage and our Palestinian identity” (Al Jazeera).
Furthermore, as the Oslo Agreement is beginning to become irrelevant, there has been an increase in Palestinian protests against the Israeli government for defunding state schools for Palestinian students, increasing the use of violence against children by the Israeli forces, destructing and evicting Palestinian homes, and practicing discriminatory policies against Palestinians. Palestinians believe that this is a geo-political move by the right-wing Israeli government to force them further out of their once claimed homeland. In return, some Palestinians have used violence to convey their anger by stabbing, shooting, and throwing rocks at civilians and armed Israeli forces. There have been numerous acts of violence against Palestinian civilians by Israelis as well.
Today, Palestine is being recognized by the international community more than ever before. The Palestinian flag was raised outside the UN building on September 30 and it was seen as a “symbol of hope” (The Guardian) for Palestinians that they will soon be fully recognized by the international community as a sovereign nation-state. Through gaining support from the international community, there has been a surge of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli government has increased its presence in the West Bank by deploying “thousands of Israeli security officers… in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem” and the country is “sealed off by checkpoints and road blocks” (Al Jazeera). The Israeli forces have used “tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators,” and increased stop and frisk procedures in the country (Al Jazeera). Palestine’s president Mahmoud Abbas has ordered the Palestinian police to also crack down on violent protestors in Palestine to ensure that peaceful negotiations can be conducted.
Some “members” of Palestinian armed groups, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, call for an intifada, which is an armed uprising against Israelis, despite Abbas’ call for peace. As dozens of Palestinians are being killed every week, growing support for such a movement is becoming more popular among young people. In mid-October in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians and Palestinian citizens in Israel took to the streets to protest the Israeli occupation and the blockade at the Al-Aqsa mosque. Violence soon erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces, which resulted in “37 Palestinians and 7 Israelis killed” (Al Jazeera) in what was called The Day of Rage.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blames the Palestinians for the recent killings driven by incitement from Hamas, the Islamist movement in Israel, and President Abbas (Al Jazeera). Secretary of State John Kerry met with Netanyahu to encourage him to not further escalate tensions between Palestine after his recent comments stated that Palestine was behind the Holocaust (POLITICO). Kerry’s goal was to diffuse the false rhetoric about the holy site and to come to a solution that will create peace and maintain regional stability.
So what does this all mean? For Palestine, one of the biggest challenges is for President Abbas to maintain security and prevent further uprisings that could lead to the rise of Palestinian armed groups. Another challenge President Abbas is facing is leading his country in peaceful negotiations, even though there is increasing support for an armed Palestinian rebellion. As seen in recent polls “57 percent supported an armed intifada” (Palestinian Policy and Survey Research). This could give rise to extremist groups hijacking the once fairly peaceful protests and turning them into a third intifada or armed rebellion that would leave thousands dead and create further unrest in the Middle East.
For Israel, one of the biggest challenges is also maintaining security of its citizens with-out using excessive force, and the necessity of Benjamin Netanyahu to help create a climate of diplomacy between him and Abbas. De-spite claiming that he is ready for peaceful negotiations, he recently stated that there is a “need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future” and he rejected the notion of a future Palestinian state (Huffington Post). This does not encourage diplomacy or do anything to de-escalate the violence. Along with Abbas, Netanyahu should realize that Israel’s and Palestine’s geo-political and religious destinies are inextricably interwoven. This is an important time for both Israel and Palestine to form collective agreements that allow for religious freedom and peaceful negotiations.
-Jordon Lee ’16, Junior Politics/Opinions Editor