On Friday evening, as Shabbat was starting, 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Ma’atan was killed in clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians outside Burka, near Ramallah in the West Bank.
A day later, 42-year-old Tel Aviv municipal security guard Chen Amir was murdered in cold blood as he helped thwart a Palestinian terrorist attack in the city’s popular Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall.
Although the circumstances of Ma’atan’s death are still being investigated, both incidents – in Burka and in Tel Aviv – represent failures on the part of Israeli authorities.
The IDF said that the violence Friday evening started when settlers from the illegal outpost of Oz Zion led their flocks of sheep to graze on land near Burka and local Palestinians confronted them.
Soldiers arrived on the scene after reports of “violent clashes between Israeli civilians and Palestinians,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that “it was reported that during the clashes, Israeli civilians shot toward the Palestinians and, as a result, there was a Palestinian casualty.”
Ma’atan was fatally shot in the neck and several other Palestinians were wounded.
Israeli security forces arrested two Israelis for involvement in the clashes: Elisha Yered, a former spokesman for Limor Son Har-Melech, an MK for National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit Party; and Yehiel Indore, the prime suspect in the shooting of the Ma’atan, who is said to have been the only person carrying a gun at the scene.
According to the right-wing legal aid group Honenu, Indore was hit in the head with a rock thrown by Palestinians and was seriously injured, but managed “with his remaining strength” to defend himself with a licensed gun he was carrying, after which Yered drove him to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he is currently under police guard.
Ben-Gvir defends the settler's actions
“My policy is clear,” declared Ben-Gvir. “Anyone defending themselves against stone-throwing should receive a medal of honor. I expect Judea and Samaria [Police] Commander Maj.-Gen. Uzi Levy to advance the investigation quickly and to carry out a thorough investigation of all the Arab rioters who were throwing stones and attempting to murder Jews.”
In a statement on Twitter, the US State Department called the incident at Burka a “terror attack,” and – while noting that Israel has carried out several arrests – demanded “full responsibility and justice.”
Data from Israeli security agencies indicate that 25 attacks by Jewish Israelis against Palestinians took place in the West Bank in the first half of this year – the same number as were carried out in the whole of 2022. UN humanitarian agency OCHA recorded 591 settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian casualties, property damage, or both, during the same period.
In addition to being morally repugnant and manifestly wrong, attacks such as these can lead to revenge attacks by Palestinians and cause the situation in the West Bank to spiral out of control.
Israeli security forces admit that they have struggled to get a handle on the widening scope and increasing frequency of violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians and are ill-equipped to do so. In the latest case, IDF soldiers went on something of a wild goose chase after having initially been given an incorrect location.
They arrived at the scene approximately two hours after the clashes started and long after the gunfire that killed Ma’atan.
The failure in Tel Aviv is no less troubling, as it represents the latest in a string of recent incidents in which Palestinians from the West Bank have managed to carry out terrorist attacks in the heart of Israel’s second-largest city. What was once rare has become all too common and Israeli security forces appear to be unable to prevent these horrific attacks from taking place.
While the two incidents differ significantly from one another, they are bound by a common thread: official helplessness in the face of a rising tide of unlawful violence.
Itamar Ben-Gvir is the minister responsible for public security, but he seems to be spending much of his time doling out gun permits, monitoring Palestinian prisoners’ bread consumption, and praising individuals suspected of complicity in the violence. It’s high time he did his job – or lost it.