West Bank Uprising: Israel’s Divide and Conquer Strategy Falls Apart
Shir Hever explains that the Israeli government’s deal with the Hamas party undermined the incentive for Palestinian security coordination, as the Israeli military is dragged in to implement colonial policing. As a result, Hamas has never been stronger
GREG WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network, and I’m Greg Wilpert.
Violence continues to escalate in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Both Palestinians and Israelis have been killed in a series of Palestinian lone wolf attacks and Israeli military attacks. the Israeli military’s attacks also include collective punishment measures, such as the demolishing of homes of family members of Palestinian attackers, and the besieging of the city of Ramallah. Meanwhile, the Hamas party held a mass rally in Gaza which it claims had more than 100,000 participants. The leader of Hamas’ political wing Ismail Haniyah spoke about the organization’s new military capabilities.
ISMAIL HANIYAH: There is an important technical security treasure in the hands of the engineers of the Al Qassam Brigades. This will contribute to understanding how these Israeli forces operated in more than one place and more than one country. The important security and technical equipment in the hands of the al Qassam engineers will reveal much about how these forces operated in Gaza, in the West Bank, and Arab countries and elsewhere.
GREG WILPERT: While Hamas is making a show of force, the Israeli government is deeply divided. After cabinet members participated in a demonstration against their own cabinet, the government approved a controversial policy to deport family members of Palestinian attackers without a trial in order to deter further attacks. This is a policy that violates international law.
Joining me now to discuss what is happening in the West Bank is Shir Hever. Shir is a Real News Network correspondent in Heidelberg, Germany, and his book The Privatization of Israeli Security was recently published by Pluto Press. Thanks for joining us today, Shir.
SHIR HEVER: Thanks for having me.
GREG WILPERT: So, we have covered the Great March of Return in Gaza, but the West Bank was relatively quiet this year. Why are the uprisings starting there now?
SHIR HEVER: I think the uprising is starting because there was a collapse of the Israeli divide and conquer strategy of occupation. The Israeli government has a very cleverly graded strategy where they say to the Palestinians in the West Bank that they should play nice and continue the security cooperation with Israel; otherwise their situation will be like it is in Gaza. Otherwise they will be put under siege, and they will not have enough food and water.
Now, Hamas has been able last month to achieve the cease fire agreement with Israel without agreeing to security coordination. So that means that there will be a little bit of loosening of the siege in Gaza, and Hamas is claiming this as a major step forward a major victory. And then Palestinians in the West Bank are becoming very angry and very frustrated. They’re saying why should we continue the security cooperation with Israel when Palestinians in Gaza were able to achieve and similar things without security coordination? And I think that’s the level of anger and frustration that we’re seeing now in the West Bank, and directly resulting from the cease fire.
GREG WILPERT: So the Israeli government claims that the Palestinian attackers are directed by Hamas, and Hamas is happy to take credit for the attacks. What do you think? Is Hamas responsible?
SHIR HEVER: Actually, I think it’s very unlikely that these attacks are orchestrated or coordinated directly by Hamas. I think what we see here is a pattern of attacks by Palestinians who, unlike in the past, are able to conduct these attacks and then run away, blend into a Palestinian village or a city nearby. And usually it was so that Palestinian attackers would be immediately killed on the spot when they attack, or they would be caught within a matter of hours. And the reason for such an efficient way of catching Palestinian attackers was exactly the security coordination. The Palestinian Authority, the Fatah party, the Palestinian security forces were very effective in catching Palestinian attackers. But now a lot of them are saying why should we risk our lives, and why should we work so hard to protect Israeli security?
And that’s, of course, very, very understandable. They say that the security coordination with Israel is form of treason for Palestinian nationalism, and that it is only worthwhile to engage in it if it brings a Palestinian state near, or Palestinian independence near. And that is not on the horizon. The Israeli government has no plan in allowing Palestinians to become free. So the security coordination officially is still in place, but in fact it’s no longer there, and all of the security forces just don’t cooperate with the Israeli forces anymore. And so Palestinians are able to conduct these attacks. And when Palestinians see that and some people are able to conduct these attacks, and then you have these copycat attacks because people start to look at those attackers as heroes, and they are praised on social media, and so on. So Hamas is happy to take credit for this, but they’re not actually coordinating.
GREG WILPERT: So now, if there is a consensus among the Israeli cabinet to invade and bomb Gaza, especially if Gaza seems to be the source of this most recent problems, why don’t they attack there now?
SHIR HEVER: That’s very interesting. The Israeli government is completely trapped within its own adventurism and populists. It’s a far-right government which is constantly talking about violence. They feel humiliated by Hamas after the recent cease fire. And even the former Minister of Defense has resigned, because he wanted to have a war, and he couldn’t have his war so he resigned. This is a level of militarism which is very unusual in most countries, but not in Israel, unfortunately.
But one thing that they don’t have is the consent of the military, and especially the ranking officer in the military. The officers in the military are aware that the discipline of the Israeli military is very low. Soldiers are acting like colonial masters, and therefore they don’t feel any particular need to follow orders. They can do whatever they want, or so they think. And the officers are worried that if they were to invade Gaza under these circumstances they are headed for a very nasty surprise, and the Palestinian resistance is going to exact a very heavy toll from them.
So they are talking to the Israeli Prime Minister, to Netanyahu, and they have convinced them that invading Gaza right now would be a bad idea. So Netanyahu has now started this kind of fake war along the border with Lebanon–I’m saying fake war because nobody’s been killed, nobody’s been injured. It’s all about sending some bulldozers to try to uncover Hezbollah tunnels. But only on the Israeli side, so the Israeli military is not really invading Lebanon. But this is Netanyahu’s attempt to say, well, look, we are having a military operation. There is no need to feel frustrated and angry. But it’s not really working, because the government continues to want blood.
GREG WILPERT: OK. Well, we’re going to have to leave it there for now, but of course we’re going to continue to follow the situation. I was speaking to Real News Network correspondent Shir Hever in Heidelberg. Thanks, Shir, for having joined us today.
SHIR HEVER: Thank you very much, Greg.
GREG WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network. Also, if you like Real News Network stories such as this one, please keep in mind that we have started our winter fundraiser and need your help to reach our goal of raising $400,000. Every dollar that you donate will be matched. And unlike practically all other news outlets, we do not accept support from governments or corporations, but depend on our viewers. Please do what you can today.