Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Netanyahu’s Administration Unleashes Israeli Settlers to Assault Palestinians

Netanyahu’s Administration confronts the Palestinians with extremist settler militias supported by Ben Gvir and Smotrich and protected by the Israeli Army.

Netanyahu’s Administration
Israeli soldiers patrol the town of Huwara, in the occupied West Bank on March 19, 2023. JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP

Majed Kayali

On 26 February 2023, Israeli settlers assaulted Palestinians residing in Huwara. The settlers aimed to oppress and humiliate the village’s Palestinians as they burned their homes and possessions. The violence that engulfed the town – which is close to Nablus – had severe repercussions.

An incident of this kind cannot be considered unexpected or singular as it has been preceded by countless assaults on Palestinians and their possessions.

Moreover, all of these Israeli violations were committed in regions supposedly under the Palestinian administration, including East Jerusalem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah. These assaults signify that Israel does not care for the Palestinian Authority or acknowledge its sovereignty over these areas. This Israeli approach in dealing with the Palestinian Authority has been ongoing since Israel flouted the Oslo Accords after revealing its stance towards the authority in the Camp David Summit 2000.

The events also indicate that Israeli settlers live in the West Bank in line with their own set of rules. They are protected by the Israeli Army and cared for and supported by the Israeli government. As it encourages settlers to assault Palestinians without consequences for their crimes, this policy unmasks the racist and discriminatory nature of Israel.

The Huwara incident proves that Israel is on the cusp of a dangerous transition in its policies against the Palestinians. In addition to confiscating their lands, denying them their rights and preventing them from establishing an independent state on the Palestinian lands it has occupied since 1967, Israel is evidently constricting the Palestinians’ living conditions.

More dangerous is that Israel confronts the Palestinians with extremist settler militias supported by the extremist ministers Ben Gvir and Smotrich and protected by the Israeli Army. Netanyahu’s government wants the dynamic to appear as a conflict between two civil groups and, as such, provide a reason for Israel to keep depriving the Palestinians of their rights until it does away with them.

Incidents similar to the one in Huwara occurred in many regions. In May 2021, for instance, Israeli settlers embarked on a campaign to evict the residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. Likewise, in 1968 and 1979, extremist groups built an Israeli settlement in the heart of Hebron by force.

In February 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli settler, murdered 29 Palestinians and injured dozens in a massacre in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque. Another incident occurred in 2014 when settlers burned 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir alive in the Shuafat neighbourhood near Jerusalem. In July 2015, a settler burned the house of the Dawabsheh family in Duma, near Nablus.

The new 2023 Netanyahu government ushered in its term with the killing of two young Palestinians and a child. It also bombarded several houses in Kafr Dan village on 2 February 2023. Additionally, Israel bolstered the expansion of its settlements and legitimised the process across the occupied West Bank.

At the same time, Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s extremist national security minister, stormed al Aqsa Mosque with Israeli police protection. On 22 February 2023, the Israeli forces stormed Nablus and murdered 11 Palestinians.

This, of course, does not mean the Palestinians were better off during Naftali and Lapid’s government term, which ended in December 2022. The past year saw the “highest number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank by Israeli Forces since the Second Intifada,” said Hagar Shezaf earlier this year on the Haartz website. She adds, “Soldiers are allowed to shoot at Palestinians who are fleeing if they had previously thrown stones or Molotov cocktails.”

In 2022, 230 Palestinians were killed by the IDF, compared to 29 Israeli deaths. Between 2006 and 2021, 7269 Palestinians were killed, 484 per year. This figure includes those who lost their lives during the Israeli wars in Gaza and the Gaza border protests in 2018 and 2019. During the same period, only 340 Israelis were killed, equalling 23 per year. For every Israeli that died, 21 Palestinians were killed.

During the same period, 104,919 Palestinians and 3143 Israelis were injured, meaning that Palestinian injuries outnumbered Israeli injuries 23-fold. It should be noted that the Palestinians’ injuries were far more severe.

The Palestinians’ circumstances do not change much as Israeli governments change. Consecutive governments have implemented policies to promote settlements, Jerusalem’s Judaisation and land confiscations.

Moreover, the government carries out arbitrary arrests and demolishes homes. Additionally, it shackled and undermined the Palestinian Authority and obliterated any hopes of an independent Palestinian state. It is worth mentioning that Israeli settlers in the West Bank (including Eastern Jerusalem) amount to 726,427, residing in 176 settlements and 186 Israeli outposts.

This status quo shows that Palestinians live in complex circumstances on all fronts. The same applies to the Authority, which gradually lost its hope – or illusion, to be precise – of establishing an independent Palestinian state.

This fading hope exposes the dangers of the unfair, incomplete Oslo Accords. The accords stipulated that anything related to Palestine must have a Palestinian-Israeli consensus, meaning Israel must give the green light on everything.

The accords never stipulated ending the Israeli occupation or the settlement, nor did they require the establishment of an independent state for the Palestinians. Neither did the accords classify Israel as an occupation state. Many UN reports, however, have labelled Israel a colonial occupation state that practises its apartheid policy against the Palestinians from the river to the sea.


The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our writers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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