Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – On Tuesday, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, delivered alarming remarks to the United Nations Security Council about the dangers of an outbreak of further violence on the part of the Israeli state and its squatter-settlers toward the 5 million Palestinians they keep stateless and under brutal military occupation.
The Special Coordinator said, “I am concerned that if we do not act quickly and decisively, we risk plunging into another deadly escalation of violence.”
Remarkably, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, shared some of his alarm in her own speech to the UNSC.
- “The UN reported that settlers carried out 273 attacks against Palestinians or their property in the first half of the year, compared to 370 total incidents for all of 2020 and 340 incidents in 2019.”
Karam reports that Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council of her trip to the region, “I saw how serious the security situation is for Palestinians.” She said she heard about “Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians, ransacking homes and destroying property in the West Bank.”
She added, “I was told how many Palestinian families fear eviction from their homes because it is nearly impossible to get building permits as settlements expand.”
She went on, “The practice has reached a critical juncture and it is now undermining even the very viability of a negotiated two-state solution . . . This is an issue that I discussed extensively with Israeli counterparts.”
US officials almost never criticizes Israel or acknowledge the impossible situation into which the Israelis have placed them., and I take her remarks to be a signal of how frustrated President Biden is with the Bennet government’s aggressive land theft and plotting to destroy any last vestiges of hope for a Palestinian state. You can’t have a two-state solution without a Palestinian state, and Biden’s Middle East policy is still committed to that goal, however unrealistically.
For his part, Wennesland began,
- “In the West Bank, a severe fiscal and economic crisis is threatening the stability of Palestinian institutions. At the same time, ongoing violence and unilateral steps, including Israeli settlement expansion and demolitions, continue to raise tensions, feed hopelessness, erode the Palestinian Authority’s standing and further diminish the prospect of a return to meaningful negotiations.”
Wennesland is a Norwegian career diplomat, who was ambassador to Egypt (as well as Libya) in 2012-2015, and who served as Norway’s representative to the Palestine Authority 2007-2011.
Wennesland acknowledged the deadly attack by a Palestinian in Jerusalem recently. But he listed many more instances of Israeli violence toward Palestinians, including on the Occupied West Bank. He noted a number of disturbing attacks on Palestinians, including
* Since the harvest began on 4 October, some 3,000 olive trees have been damaged or have had their harvest stolen [by militant Israeli squatters].
*”Physical attacks on Palestinian farmers, volunteers and humanitarian staff have also been recorded, some reportedly taking place in the presence of Israeli Security Forces.”
He is saying that the Israeli army is an accomplice to the lawlessness of the squatters.
* “settlers and other Israeli civilians in the occupied West Bank perpetrated some 54 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in 26 injuries, including five children and damage to property.
The Palestinians were somewhat less active in committing violence than the squatters on their land, but some did attack the latter:
* “Palestinians perpetrated 41 attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians, resulting, as reported above, in one death and nine injuries, including one child and one woman, and damage to property.”
* “Most incidents resulting in injury or damage were caused by stones and Molotov Cocktails thrown at civilian vehicles and buses.” That is, such weapons were resorted to on both sides.
* “On 24 November, a Palestinian man was critically injured, and his ten-year-old son injured, after their car overturned near al-Mughayyir village in the West Bank due to an object thrown from an oncoming car. According to witnesses, the car was hit by objects thrown by Israeli settlers. Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into the incident.”
Anyone who daily reads the news from the West Bank, as I do, knows that there is a low intensity civil war there, as Israeli squatters steal more and more Palestinian property and impose increasing restrictions on Palestinian movements. Palestinian violence under these circumstances is akin to a prison riot. These are very serious and knowledgeable people speaking at the UN on Tuesday.
They are telling us that a war is coming.
We should take them seriously.