With Violence Rising, Netanyahu Faces Possible Civil War

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Since reelection in 2009, Netanyahu has sought to keep the status quo. The latest burst of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank marks its end

The last few weeks have seen a discussion in Israel whether the recent deadly events are the beginning of a new Intifada or just a periodic burst of violence. The killing of two settlers near Nablus on Thursday and of two Israelis in the old city of Jerusalem on Saturday, combined with wide-scale clashes all over the West Bank and Jerusalem have put an end to this discussion. Israelis and Palestinians are entering a new phase in their conflict, whether we name it an Intifada or not.

In the coming cabinet meeting, scheduled for Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will surely come under attack. The Jewish Home party, headed by Education Minister Naftaly Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked will claim that his supposedly soft approach towards the Palestinians led to the current rise in violence. Similar voices are heard within his own Likud party.

Bennett and Shaked’s demands are either vague or difficult to implement. They would like to see “a freer hand” for soldiers and policemen towards Palestinians, yet the killing of a Palestinian woman last week in Hebron suggests that the soldiers’ hands are not really tied. They would also like to see the building of new Jewish neighborhoods in the West Bank, but even if such a decision could be taken, it will take years to fulfill it. And they want to send the Palestinians back to jail that were released two years ago during the deal to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, but this move raises serious legal problems.

Yet even if Netanyahu survives the political pressure, the choices he faces now are truly difficult. To a certain extent, his government faces a tougher and more complicated situation then it did last summer before launching Operation Defensive Edge in Gaza. Israel has up her sleeve a military answer for rocket attacks from Gaza: to react in a disproportionate way against the Hamas-controlled Strip.

This time around, the Israeli army does not have in front of it an area easily defined as “enemy territory”. The attack on Thursday near Nablus took place on a road in area C in the West Bank, meaning under full Israeli control. The attack in the old city of Jerusalem happened in a city which Israel annexed 48 years ago and in which the Palestinian Authority and its forces have no say.

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SOURCE: Meron Rapoport
Middle East Eye