CHENNAI: A sense of normality has returned to Nablus, a Palestinian city in the center of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Shops have reopened and fruit stalls are back on the street. In mid-October, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) locked down the city for almost three weeks in search of Palestinian militants who ambushed and fatally shot an Israeli soldier in a nearby settlement.
In his family’s bookstore at the entrance to the Old City, Yousef Kandakji described the past weeks as “very difficult.” “The two main entrances to Nablus were closed, sometimes the army allowed you to enter and not to leave or vice versa,” he said as customers browsed books in the shop. “That killed all movement in and out of the city.” Israeli forces have stepped up raids across the West Bank in recent months to counter what Israeli officials describe as a growing threat of terrorism. Starting in March, Arab Israeli citizens and Palestinians carried out a series of deadly attacks which killed at least 16 Israelis and two foreigners in Israel, according to UN figures. In addition, at least four Israelis - among them two soldiers - have been reported killed in east Jerusalem and the West Bank in recent weeks.
At the same time, Israeli forces have killed more than 100 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank so far this year, including children, according to the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, in a statement released in October. Settler violence against Palestinians has also increased, according the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The United Nations said that this year is set to be the deadliest for Palestinians since 2005. At the end of October, Germany, France, Italy and Spain made a joint statement, saying “ongoing tensions and an increasing number of casualties on both sides in the occupied Palestinian territories is highly alarming.”
Meanwhile, the likelihood that Benjamin Netanyahu, who won the majority in last week’s Israeli elections, will include the far-right alliance, Religious Zionism, in a coalition government leaves Palestinians concerned. “Netanyahu doesn’t really want peace at all. He only wants destruction, we all know him and the disasters he can bring over the Palestinian people,” Kandakji, the bookshop owner, believes.
“And now with the even more extremist faction, we also know Ben-Gvir very well from his actions in Jerusalem,” said the young Palestinian, referring to Itamar Ben-Gvir, one of the leaders of the Religious Zionism alliance. “He creates a lot of tensions.”
Others echo similar sentiments. “Ben-Gvir does not invoke anything good,” said Ayat Bustami, a young Palestinian woman shopping in the Old City. “I want to be optimistic, but it’s increasingly difficult.” Another shopper, Randa Jaish, added, “It’s just getting bleaker every day.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said that election “results confirm that we have no partner in Israel for peace.”
With the strong showing of the far-right, which advocates for the expansion of settlements and, eventually, the annexation of the West Bank, any hope of peace talks towards statehood appears more distant than ever for Palestinians. The last direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials took place in 2014 under the auspices of then-US Secretary of State John Kerry. “The problem is, we’re not finding that the Israeli public is willing to vote or elect a government that’s willing to deal with the core issue, which is the occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem,” said political analyst Sam Bahour in Ramallah. “They continue to ignore the elephant in the room.”
This article was provided by Deutsche Welle