Israel is facing increased international opposition to its security policies and intensified threats to the safety of its citizens within Israel proper and throughout the occupied Palestinian territories. There is a need for a new security approach in Israeli policy that comprehends the deeply-rooted, micro-level motivations for violent resistance within the Palestinian population. In this case, it would make sense to address Palestinian aspirations for security in order to satisfy Israel’s aspirations for its own security.
Events over the past few months have highlighted the growing defectiveness of Israel’s occupation policies which, instead of pacifying an occupied population, have only fuelled anti-Israeli sentiment. Since October, 20 Israeli civilians have been killed in attacks by Palestinian assailants while concurrently, at least 150 Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli security forces and settlers within the Palestinian territories.
While this wave of attacks may surprise much of the public, it is largely a result of the continuing occupation and colonisation of the West Bank since 1967, as well as the iron-fisted blockade of Gaza. As the military occupation becomes more heavy-handed in stifling dissent, and more controlling in the daily affairs of Palestinian lives, dissatisfaction with Israeli authorities has only swelled.
In fact, the military occupation’s violent omnipresence in the territories fuel armed resistance rather than stifle it. Palestinian academic Nasser Abufarha’s 2009 work on martyrdom operations concludes that it is the oppressive conditions under which Palestinians must live that leads many towards undertaking violent resistance. The village of Sa’ir near Hebron exemplifies this – a disproportionate number of alleged Palestinian assailants come from this village, which is also highly exposed to Israeli road closures, night-time raids, and the rescinding of its residents’ work permits. Hebron itself, which has also suffered extensive neighbourhood closures, IDF raids, and increased military checkpoint activity, is also the home city for a disproportionately large amount of alleged Palestinian assailants.
The conclusions of members of the Israeli security establishment have partially mirrored these findings and acknowledge that removing impediments to Palestinians’ daily routines would be central to decreasing attacks. Another publication from Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies also asserted that the occupation has amplified Palestinian feelings of desperation that in turn motivate further attacks against Israeli citizens. The recent outbreak of violence is not so much driven by party affiliation or organised objectives, but rather by the limiting of non-violent options for Palestinian youths to voice their grievances. With Palestinians experiencing extensive harassment by Israeli security forces, especially over the decades when state-level negotiations failed to address the concerns of the occupied, acts of violence appear as the only available method for challenging the status quo.
Simultaneously, settlement expansion continues unabated, not only disregarding Palestinian interests of territorial contiguity but also drawing sweeping international criticism that threatens to isolate Israel diplomatically. Ban Ki-moon’s most recent statements have condemned Israeli occupation policies – not only settlement expansion – for instigating the upsurge in violence. France also denounced Israel’s continuing colonisation and promised to recognise a Palestinian state if another round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations failed.
Even the US ambassador to Israel questioned the wisdom of settlement expansions and criticised the Israeli legal system that effectively discriminates against Palestinians, failing to provide due process to Palestinian victims of Israeli vigilantism. Combining this with the recent thawing of US relations with Iran, despite Israeli attempts to hinder the nuclear deal, the dual threat of weakened ties with the US and parallel diplomatic isolation is real.
Accordingly, in securing itself, the onus is on the Israeli administration to withdraw its military occupation. Currently, Israel has the most control in the West Bank due to its formal status as the military occupier in the region. As the more powerful party in this disparate relationship between occupier and occupied, the impetus is on the Israeli administration to end its occupation in order to quell the resistance that, as military occupations throughout history have illustrated, is only a natural response. The occupation is the main motivator for many Palestinians advocating armed resistance and ultimately, addressing the long-neglected grievances of Palestinians would be the best pathway to ensuring Israel’s domestic security and peace between the two sides.
Miguel Galsim is an undergraduate student at the Australian National University, undertaking a combined Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies.
Image Credit: Kashfi Halford (cropped) (Flickr: Creative Commons)