Conflict Alerts # 587, 2 February 2023
In the news
On 29 January, nearly 100,000 people including a contingent from a left-wing coalition held protests in Tel Aviv against the new right-wing government and its new reforms weakening the judiciary. The protests marked the fourth consecutive week and demonstrators carried Israel flags chanting “no to dictatorship” and demanded “democracy.” The protests come after gunmen killed seven people near a synagogue in an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem. Previously, on 26 January, nine Palestinians were killed and dozens were injured in an Israeli military raid in the West Bank’s Janin city.
On 29 January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would expedite gun permits to Israeli citizens and promised new steps to “strengthen” Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
On 31 January, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his visit to Israel and Palestine, criticised the Israeli settlements, simultaneously stressing the US support for Israel. Emphasising the need for preserving the two-state solution, Blinken said: “The United States is committed to working toward our enduring goal of ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and dignity.” He added that the US “will continue to oppose anything that puts that goal further from reach, including but not limited to settlement expansion and the legalisation of illegal outposts, moves towards the annexation of the West Bank, disruption to the historic status quo on Jerusalem’s holy sites, demolitions and evictions and incitement and acquiescence to violence.”
Referring to Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu replied to Blinken that Israel is “working to close the file of the Arab-Israeli conflict that would also help us find a solution with our Palestinian neighbours.” He added: “We share common interests, and common values. We will remain, I assure you, two strong democracies.”
Issues at large
First, increasing violence. The latest Israeli army raid in the West Bank is one of the deadliest since 2005 and the Palestinian attack against Israelis outside the synagogue is said to be the deadliest since 2008. According to Al Jazeera, at least 35 Palestinians were killed in the raids in January alone. The new government's move to legalise further settlements across the West Bank has increased Israel-Palestine tensions. While Netanyahu continues further aggression against the Palestinians, the young Palestinians use violent resistance considering it as their only viable path to freedom.
Second, prolonging political instability. Israel has been going through an unprecedented political instability followed by five general elections in a span of four years: April 2019, September 2019, March 2020, March 2021, and November 2022. The refusal of the liberal wing to form a coalition with Netanyahu in the Knesset and his conservative Likud Party’s refusal to remove Netanyahu from the party’s leadership led to a political stalemate and prolonged political instability.
Third, the return of Netanyahu and a far-right government. Netanyahu was ousted in June 2021 after 12 years in power by a loose coalition of rivals while he faced allegations of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Israel's longest serving leader has always taken a tough line toward the Palestinians, putting security concerns at the top. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s return to his sixth term in power is added to the return of the country’s far right-wing coalition. The far-right coalition parties reject the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and stick to the annexation of the West Bank.
Four, the new reforms. The new proposed judicial reforms restrict the High Court of Justice’s powers and give new powers to the Knesset. According to the proposed reform, a majority in the Knesset will be enough to pass a law. Further, the Supreme Court will be prohibited from hearing any appeal against the Basic Laws. Additionally, the Judicial Appointments Committee’s composition will change and will include 11 members, seven of whom will be appointed directly by the parliament.
First, the government's hardline conservative policies, continuing attacks and aggression against the Palestinians, and expanding settlements would mean that the crisis is likely to escalate. Second, the return of Netanyahu and a far-right government would mean that the new government's policies are likely to inflame political instability as well as escalate Israel-Palestine tensions. Third, the proposed reforms face popular disagreement. If implemented, the new reforms weakening the judiciary’s authority would undermine democracy and accelerate intrusive policies on Palestine. Four, as the violence increases, with international actors falling behind to take necessary steps, the speculation of another Palestinian Intifada is growing.