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What's next for the West Bank?

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Cristina Catena Gasco

In recent days, the world has witnessed yet another tragic chapter unfold in the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The West Bank, a disputed territory at the heart of the discord between these two nations, has again become the stage for violence and suffering. Israel's most recent attack on the West Bank has sparked international concern, escalating tensions and renewing calls for a peaceful resolution. Once again, the Israeli Armed Forces attacked the Palestinian territory of West Bank, specifically the city of Jenin. Located in West Bank between Jordania and Israel, the city serves as the administrative centre of the Jenin Governorate of the State of Palestine.

For context, the West Bank (and Jenin) was first occupied by Israel in 1967 and has been administered by the Palestinian National Authority (the governing body of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) since 1994 as a result of the Oslo Accords Peace Agreement. Nevertheless, the Israeli settlement of the West Bank has generally been considered illegal and illegitimate by the international community due to the Fourth Geneva Convention banning the transfer of civilian populations to militarily occupied territories. The population of Jenin counted 39.004 inhabitants in 2007. In addition, the Jenin refugee camp has an estimated population of 10.000,00 inhabitants, housing even the former Palestinian refugees of 1948 who fled due to the First Arab–Israeli War. According to the Israeli military, groups of these militants live in densely populated urban areas - such as the refugee camp of Jenin - and often with their relatives. However, this attack is nothing new to the ongoing situation between Israeli and Palestinian. The first intifada (the specific Arab name to define an uprising against oppression) occurred in 1987 because an Israeli truck killed four Palestinians in a traffic collision in the Gaza Strip, and its effects also extended to West Bank. This event resulted in a rebellion against Israel, ending in the beginning of negotiations between both parties with the involvement of the USA. A second intifada took place in 2000 and continued until 2003 during the visit of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose policy towards the Palestinian problem was stricter and strongly supported by the electorate. Clashes between Palestinians and Israelis escalated. Meanwhile, Israel began building a wall in the West Bank, claiming its purpose was to prevent attacks on Israel. Palestinians saw this as an attempt to annex territory. In April of that year, the US published a peace plan known as the "Road Map for Peace" (drawn up by representatives of the UN, the US, the EU and Russia), which envisages a two-state solution. The Palestinians and Israelis accepted the plan (Israel too, but with conditions). Nevertheless, the Road Map for Peace has not achieved its primary purpose. Israel stated complex conditions in this agreement, such as its right to exist as a Jewish state, waiving any right to return Palestinian refugees to Israel, and its unwillingness to be bound to the Bertini Report (an official humanitarian monitoring report) concerning improving Palestinian humanitarian issues.

Under such conditions, it is impossible to resist, right? One clear point stated by Israel regarding this peace agreement is the complete dismantling of Hamas and other militant groups (e.g., the Palestinian Yihad) and their infrastructure, including collecting and destroying all illegal weapons. This would be an essential step in the success of future negotiations since the terrorist attacks from Palestine are the main reason and excuse for Israel to continue its rigid policy against it. The last assault from Israel on Jenin is described as its most extensive military operation in the Palestinian territory in years, defined as an "extensive counter-terrorism effort". History is a fascinating academic field and a failed subject for politicians on the western side of the river Jordan.

The new coalition government with Netanyahu as its Prime Minister is defined by its right-wing policies and rugged solutions against the Palestinian conflict, which does not sound as promising for the rest of the nations as it sounds for the Israeli Government. As we already experienced with the actions of former President Ariel Sharon, the lack of empathy and understanding when pursuing a balanced consensus between both parties is likely to contribute only to the death of numerous civilians and soldiers.

However, the relevance of the West Bank and especially the Jordan Valley, due to its fertile soil for agriculture and water resources, makes these areas the best piece of cake on the table. Moreover, West Bank and the Golian Heights (next to the borders with Syria) also have an extraordinary impact on Israel's security and military strategy. So, not only is religion the reason for the Israeli settlements and the efforts by the Israeli Government to keep the area under their rule.

The Netanyahu-led Government comprises his Likud party, two ultra-Orthodox parties, and three far-right religious factions. Among their policies, we find their intention to allow a simple majority in the Knesset (supreme state body and unicameral legislature of Israel) to ignore any action by the Supreme Court to strike down a law as unconstitutional, thus violating the power of the majority, as well as a possible diminishment in LGBTQ rights. Many Israeli citizens have demonstrated against these possible upcoming actions by the Government.

We must wait longer to find a peacemaker plan for Israel and Palestine. Meanwhile, unfortunately, the civilians continue suffering the most violent consequences.

Image: EPA/via BBC News

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