At present, the international community is witnessing efforts to de-escalate a number of world crises, such as those of putting an end to the war in Ukraine, the security agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Arab countries’ advances toward Syria. The opposite is true for the Israeli government, which has embarked on a significant escalation within its boundaries and against the Palestinians.
The current situation in Israel is complicated, especially given that some members of the governing coalition are seeking to push their personal agendas to the fore, regardless of Israel’s international image. The entire world is witness to what is happening in the West Bank, with the escalation of violence and the number of deaths growing by the day.
The roots of the problems are obvious, but the question remains: When will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heed the call to deal with the situation seriously and effectively?
Violence is not a solution
Violence has not and will not be a solution. This message needs to be delivered to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. The ultranationalist approach that they have taken in their policies, has created a problematic situation that threatens to increase the complexity of the security dilemma within Israel and in the Palestinian territories.
In Tel Aviv this month, a shooting by a Palestinian gunman caused one death and injuries to Israelis. Last month in Huwara, dozens of settlers set Palestinian homes and cars ablaze, after the killing of two Israelis by a Palestinian gunman. The rampage by settlers was described as crazy and unacceptable, not just by observers abroad but by many Israelis as well. All this indicates that the situation could escalate further, if such events are not stopped.
The anticipated outcome of the international efforts that were convened during the last two months was not fully achieved because of the policies and statements put forward by some Israeli politicians. For instance, when the Aqaba Summit was held in Jordan in February, Ben-Gvir was clear in his criticism of the summit, saying that what happened there would stay there. When a second summit took place in Sharm el-Sheikh to pursue the efforts outlined in Aqaba, Smotrich was observed in a press conference denying the existence of the Palestinian nation.
Further, his animosity toward Jordan was obvious when he included Jordan as being part of Israel on a map. The questions Smotrich and Ben-Gvir must answer are whether they truly care about Israel’s international interests and the notion of trust, which is vital in international relations.
Sending a message to the international community
UNDOUBTEDLY, THESE politicians’ positions are sending a message to the international community that they do not care about any peace efforts that tend to benefit not just the Palestinians, but the Israelis as a whole. These politicians should understand that the international efforts to bring a new approach to peace, based on a new sense of hope in the Middle East, is not a game.
These efforts should be seriously respected and praised, for the sake of making a true shift in the region that will be reflected positively in the next generation, who will be living in this part of the world.
It was a shocking step in mid-March 2023 when the Knesset passed a bill to repeal the Disengagement Law for the northern West Bank, the result of which will, in essence, help the ruling coalition’s efforts to legalize a wildcat outpost.
Addressing the next question
Now the question is, on what basis did the Israeli government attend the summits? Why did they vow to freeze settlement expansion, claiming to do so for the sake of peace? How can Arab countries trust whoever is in power in Israel, if the situation is likely to reverse and harm the mutual agreements needed to bring about a lasting peace in the region?
The current move in Israel to enact judicial reforms has led the Israeli people themselves to express their opposition to the efforts, and reflects how the international community should deal with Israel. The law should be above everything, as it is the basis of trust that emphasizes and enhances mutual interests. Today, if the Israeli people are unable to uphold and defend their own legal system, how will they guarantee the country’s international understandings and agreements?
If Israeli politicians think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been missed in the last decade, in light of the so-called Arab Spring, the message should be sent to them that they are entirely wrong. There is no doubt that there are new approaches to dealing with the conflict, but that does not mean that Arabs have forgotten the Palestinians’ interests and their right to an independent state alongside Israel.
Further, it would be no great surprise if the Arabs reversed their approach if the escalation of violence continue to harm their desire to make peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Securing people’s lives and enhancing the region’s stability cannot be achieved through the continuous use of hard power from both sides. What is important to emphasize is that building trust is the first key step to achieving peace, as without it, no one can take further steps, since their interests cannot be guaranteed.
For this reason, it is crucial for the Israeli government to understand that the international community is looking to change its view on Israel to make peace in the region; at the same time, however, something should be done by the Israeli side to solidify this approach, as it will serve Israelis’ interests first.
With the above in mind, there needs to be a serious reevaluation of the current approach of the Israeli government, if the Israelis hope to be taken seriously and to preserve Israeli interests internationally. Zooming out and using a new lens to see the future of the region is imperative.
The old rhetoric, which has been used to preserve hatred among the region’s people, must change. It is vital for Israel to take the international steps with honesty and bravery by favoring the interests and the future of the next generations above all else.
The writer is a senior researcher in Israel affairs at TRENDS Research and Advisory.