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Israelis brace for more violence, while Palestinians increasingly sidelined

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Israeli paramilitary border police stand guard at a roadblock in East Jerusalem Reuters

More security forces were deployed to Israeli cities on Thursday after more stabbings were reported in Jerusalem in the latest in a wave of Palestinian knife attacks. The incidents take place mainly in East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, not in Gaza, as no Israelis are living there.


“The situation is very tense,” says Omar Shaban, director of the Palestinian think-tank PalThink for Strategic Studies.“ In ten days, there were so many incidents where Palestinians and Israelis were killed, some of them civilians. The question now should be on how we can stop that.”

Shaban thinks the wave of violence was expected. “Palestinians are gearing up to a third intifada as the peace process has failed, and the Israeli presence in the Palestinian territories has never been stopped, they buy more land, they take houses, they take land,” he says.

On Thursday, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, gave a televised speech in which he supports the actions by Palestinians. “It has been debated if this was to be a third intifada or just some incident here or there,” says Shaban.

“Of course Abbas can not be against it, although he believes in peaceful means, and although he is against a third intifada, but there is huge pressure on him from the Palestinian faction, Fatah.”

Shaban adds that “it is the right of the Palestinian people to struggle against the Occupation.”

Others are shocked by the reaction of the Israeli security forces. “The Israelis are thinking along one line only, called force,” says Shawan Jabarin, director of the Al Haq human rights NGO in Ramallah.

“But force will result in more force. And killing will cause more killing. The Israelis are now performing extra-judicial killings against Palestinians, mainly in Jerusalem. Imagine, three, four soldiers, they shoot well, aim well. They have their guns. And they shoot to kill. Now Israelis are shooting to kill,” he deplores.

Meanwhile, Israelis in many cities are increasingly worried about the incidents, and arms shops are reporting high figure sales. “Increasing security measures,” says Tamis Shaefer, a political scientist with the Hebrew University “is something that no doubt needs to be done,” although he points out that “dialogue” should be the solution rather than confrontation.

Arab Israelis who live inside Israel increasingly feel sidelined as a result of the confict. “The members of the Joint (Arab) List are the main opposition in the Knesseth this week,” says Yousef Jabareen, an Aram MP in Israel’s parliament.

“The [Center-left] Zionists, who are supposed to be in the opposition, just joined [prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his plan is to have all these restrictive measures in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank,” he says.

There are some discussions in the corridors of the Knesset, admits Jabareen, but they too are becoming increasingly difficult.

“These days it is not a constructive conversation. We are trying to convince them that Netanyahu is heading towards another conflict and that the main reason for this circle of violence is basically the ongoing, provocative visits of settlers and right-wing activists to El Aqsa Mosque.”

“So we told them, if Netanyahu wants to stop what goes on right now, he has basically to stop these provocative visits to the mosque and I’m sure that things will immediately calm down,” Jabareen concluded.