150 days of war on Gaza: Taking over West Bank next on Israeli agenda, fear Palestinians

Wed, 6 Mar 2024 7:43 GMT
Since Oct. 7, there has been a consistent uptick in Israeli violence in the West Bank, including killings, settler attacks and demolitions.
150 days of war on Gaza: Taking over West Bank next on Israeli agenda, fear Palestinians

For lecturer and writer Abdaljawad Omar, the fate and future of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank is bleak and under imminent threat.

Omar, an academic at the Birzeit University in the occupied territory, warns that Israel wants to get rid of all Palestinians living in the West Bank.

“The big prize is actually the West Bank, not the Gaza Strip. This is the land that they (Israelis) want to fully or mostly depopulate and ethnically cleanse,” Omar told Anadolu.

As Israel’s deadly onslaught on Gaza reaches 150 days, the simultaneous surge in violence against Palestinians in West Bank by Israeli soldiers and settlers has heightened fears over what lies next for its 3 million Palestinian residents.

Omar’s concerns were recently reaffirmed by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who warned that Israel’s “real objective” is to take full control of the West Bank and drive out all Palestinians.

“While everybody is focusing on the genocide that is taking place in Gaza, we should always remember that the real objective of Israel is the West Bank, the so-called Judea and Samaria,” al-Maliki said at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Türkiye.

He pointed out to the daily confiscation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, construction of illegal settlements, destruction of Palestinian homes and attacks by settlers.

Israel … has a long-term interest not only to stay in the West Bank but also to displace people, to force them out of the West Bank into Jordan, and to also annex the Palestinian territory,” said the minister.

Escalating Israeli aggression

There has been a consistent uptick in Israeli violence in the West Bank since Oct. 7, including killings, settler attacks and demolitions.

Some 420 Palestinians, including at least 100 children, have been killed, by Israeli forces and settlers, and at least 4,650 more injured, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Israel has also arrested at least 7,340 Palestinians arrested in the West Bank over the past five months, figures from the Palestinian government and NGOs show.

A spike has also been seen in demolitions of Palestinian properties, with nearly 950 structures destroyed and around 1,630 Palestinians displaced last year, according to UN figures.

Since the beginning of this year, another 142 demolitions have been recorded, displacing more than 340 Palestinians.

According to recent reports, Israel plans to build more than 3,300 new homes in settlements across the West Bank.

Around 700,000 Israeli settlers live in roughly 300 illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to estimates.

All Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are considered illegal under international law.

An Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now recently announced that Israel also plans to build a new Jewish-only settlement.

In a statement, it said the number of settlements has risen since Israel launched its deadly war on Gaza, where it has now killed more than 30,500 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured nearly 72,000.

“In 2023, settlers established at least 26 new illegal outposts, with at least 10 established during the war since Oct. 7, 2023, and at least 18 of them being agricultural farms,” read the statement.

'A state that doesn’t want us here'

Lecturer Omar says that Palestinians in the West Bank are aware that what is happening in Gaza would one day take place here as well.

“The Palestinians, slowly but surely, have realized that if the war in Gaza ends with the ethnic cleansing being successful, that they are only next on Israel’s agenda. Whether today or tomorrow or after 10 years or five years,” he said.

Israel, he added, “takes pleasure in this kind of mechanized artificial intelligence killing that has been conducted in the Gaza Strip.”

People are worried, terrified and paralyzed politically in the West Bank, according to Omar.

“The truth is slowly sinking in that the West Bank is the biggest prize, and that even if we cooperated with Israelis and don’t resist, at the end of the day, this is a state that doesn’t want us here and that it’s only real solution for us is to get rid of us,” he said.

Israel wants full exclusive Israeli Jewish sovereignty’

The apprehensions voiced by Palestinians have been lent more credence by the inflammatory rhetoric of Israeli officials, with several ministers having explicitly conveyed either their desire to remove all Palestinians or altogether denying their existence.

Muhannad Ayyash, a policy analyst at think tank Al-Shabaka, also concurs that Israel’s larger strategic plan is to expel Palestinians from as much land as possible.

“What Israel wants at the end of the day is full exclusive Israeli Jewish sovereignty on all the lands from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” Ayyash told Anadolu.

This includes the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, he said.

“All those lands would be under exclusive Israeli Jewish sovereignty, which means that an Israeli Jewish majority has to inhabit all those lands,” he explained.

He said these plans to expel Palestinians would bring down their numbers to “about anywhere between 10% to 20% of the total population.”

Ayyash, who is also a sociology professor at Mount Royal University in Canada, said these expulsions could be in various forms, “sometimes a slow unseen process and sometimes with the great mass violence that you’re seeing right now in the Gaza Strip … (and) the West Bank.”

A combination of different strategies and tactics are employed for this purpose, including demolishing homes and annexing land, he said, pointing out the recent annexation of land in the West Bank near an Israeli settlement.

Other strategies are expanding settlements or “making life very difficult for the Palestinians, separating Palestinian communities from each other in the West Bank and then from the West Bank from East Jerusalem,” he continued.

“Basically, they’re taking it one small acre at a time. Just doing it slowly, but at some point, to achieve their goal of Greater Israel, they’ll do to the West Bank what they’re doing to the Gaza Strip right now,” said Ayyash.

“What is happening in Gaza is exactly what’s going to happen in the West Bank … so that they can expel people from the West Bank as well. That is their goal.”


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