An Israeli soldier has been stabbed, and his Palestinian attacker killed, in the latest acts of civil violence in the ongoing and escalating conflict between Israel and Palestine.
The fighting came after Israel restricted Palestinian access to the sacred site of Haram al-Sharif -also known as Temple Mount- in Jerusalem in the run-up to the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. This is controversial because the site is holy to both the Jewish and Islamic faiths.
The death toll currently stands at eighty-nine Palestinians, nineteen Israelis and one American. Tensions run high in Israel, while on social media Palestinians are using the hashtag “#thirdintifada” and “#ongoingintifada”.
This has prompted renewed unrest in the region with fears of the beginnings of a third Intifada; the last having occurred in 2000; triggered by the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visiting the same site with several hundred armed guards. This was seen as highly provocative by Palestinians. Fatalities stood at 3000 Palestinians, 1000 Israelis and 64 foreigners as of its de-escalation in 2005.
Palestinian lone-wolf knife attacks, carried out generally by young people, have been the preferred form of attack on Israeli nationals. Foreign Affairs has noted little political coordination between Palestinian factions, such as the Palestinian Authority and the opposition group Hamas.
This suggests a growing disillusionment with the stagnant peace process from the Palestinian youth, says the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This highlights the need for a rapid end to violence and renewed focus on a two-state solution. This has triggered a panic in the Israeli population. Tensions have been further exacerbated by an arguably disproportionate response from other Israeli authorities, with human rights groups condemning the treatment of Palestinians as amounting to “extrajudicial killings” (Mariam Farah, Amnesty International in Israel).
In response to the violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has imposed legislation for minimum sentences for stone throwers, heavy fines for parents of stone throwers and authorised the use of snipers on rioters. Relations with the Palestinians have further been exacerbated by his remarks implying that Hitler initiated the Holocaust after talks with the then Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini. He has since retracted the comments, following international condemnation from many, including many Israeli historians for distorting facts, says the New York Times.
In a statement released on Facebook on October 30th, Netanyahu says that “the move from a policy of Jewish deportation to the Final Solution was made by the Nazis and was not dependant on outside influence”. Berlin was one of the first to condemn the earlier statement, with Steffen Seibert, German Minister Angela Merkel’s spokesman, saying “responsibility for this crime against humanity is German”.
I am here in the hope that we can work together to end the violence, ease the tensions and begin to restore a long-term political horizon of peace
The international response has been to call for a de-escalation in the conflict, with the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon making an unscheduled visit to Jerusalem on October 20th to help facilitate renewed peace negotiations: “I am here in the hope that we can work together to end the violence, ease the tensions and begin to restore a long-term political horizon of peace” he stated in a joint press conference with Netanyahu.
Other international actors have renewed calls for a two-state solution, with Germany calling on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the attacks to facilitate the peace process. U.S Secretary of State John Kerry echoes these calls, with a two-state solution being integral for peace according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Progress is slow, with no end to violence in sight and innocents are likely to continue to suffer.