Why Israel Put the West Bank on Closure, but Let Palestinians Work During the Jewish Holiday

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Why Israel Put the West Bank on Closure, but Let Palestinians Work During the Jewish Holiday

Post by Sassy on Sat Oct 07, 2017 5:09 pm

In this clever game of chess, Palestinians are only pawns as right-wing politicians both grab terror attack points and secure essential labor in settlements

The extraordinary decision to impose an 11-day closure on the territories, from Wednesday evening until Saturday night of next week, was taken after Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman consulted a number of times with the heads of Israel’s armed services branches. The Israel Defense Forces, as Haaretz has past reported, opposes broad collective punishment in the territories in response to terror attacks and views the employment in Israel of Palestinians from the West Bank as a means to mitigate violent unrest. But the circumstances in this case were exceptional.

In the first round of consultations, before Rosh Hashanah over two weeks ago, the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service favored a heavy hand. The police recommended a closure during the two and a half days of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur, one week later, followed by an 11-day closure from the start of the week-long Sukkot holiday on October 4 through the Shabbat after the end of the holiday, on October 14 – as was eventually decided. The army proposed a closure only during the actual holidays, that is on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the first and last days of Sukkot, with the option to extend the Sukkot closure to the entire week if circumstances warranted. Lieberman initially accepted this suggestion.

The attack on September 26, in which a Palestinian who worked in Har Adar shot and killed three Israeli security guards at the entrance to the settlement, reshuffled the deck because it defied assumptions. The assailant at Har Adar, in an exception to the pattern of terror attacks in the past few years, had a permit to work in the settlements. After particularly deadly terror attacks that expose vulnerabilities in its defense strategies, the military establishment has a tendency not to introduce changes immediately, but rather to analyze the system in order to detect weak points that can be reinforced.

Immediately after the Har Adar incident, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot revised his position to favor the maximalist closure proposed by the police and the Shin Bet. To support its argument, the army cited the heightened friction during the holiday period, during which large numbers of Jews visit Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, and fears that terrorists could try to replicate the “success” of the Har Adar attack. On Wednesday, after the Sukkot closure was imposed, Reuven Shmerling, an Israeli citizen, was murdered in the Israeli Arab community of Kafr Qasem. The police believe he was stabbed to death by a Palestinian who was in Israel illegally.

The imposition of a closure during the Jewish holidays can have contradictory effects. In the short term, it reduces the possibility of friction between Israelis and Palestinians within Israel proper, but in the long term the economic hardship it causes can act as a radicalizing factor, driving Palestinians to commit terror attacks. Lieberman was already disposed to favor collective punishment, in part to satisfy his voters. The moves in the past two weeks, in particular, toward Palestinian internal reconciliation, between Fatah and Hamas, put an additional thumb on the scale in favor of harsher punishment. They led Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attack the leaders of the Palestinian Authority.

One law for us, another for them

Immediately after the Har Adar attack, figures in the cabinet and the government coalition called for revoking, or at least reviewing, the policy of issuing work permits allowing Palestinians to work in Israel. Coalition whip David Bitan called for the immediate suspension of entry permits and the reexamination of the permit policy. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said at the scene of the Har Adar attack that the policy must be reevaluated, saying: “In an era of ideologically based terror and incitement on social media, it isn’t always possible to know where the next attack will come from.” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz added that the incident “would have implications for the ability to employ Palestinians and ease the conditions at the crossing points.”

The announcement of the unusually long closure did not mention the policy regarding Palestinians who work in settlements and Israeli industrial zones in the West Bank, presumably not by accident. Most of the settlements are totally dependent on Palestinians construction and sanitation workers, and their leaders are close enough to the government to see to their interests. Palestinians will continue to work in settlements during the intermediate days of the Sukkot festival next week, but not within Israel proper.

There’s more. On Thursday night, a request by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel to allow some 10,000 Palestinian workers into Israel next week was fulfilled following a government consultation conducted by telephone. Most work on farms, with a smaller number employed by towns in sanitation. Ariel is a member of the ultra-right wing of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party. One can only marvel at the ability of the settlers and their representatives in the government to have their cake and eat it too. On one hand, to earn easy political points by taking an uncompromising anti-Palestinian stance right after a fatal terror attack, while also making sure that the punitive measures they call for won’t hurt their electorate. In this clever game of chess, the Palestinians are only pawns.

Bad Blood

Har Adar and the debate over the closure have led to another round in the ongoing quarrel happening mostly behind the scenes between the IDF top brass and the police.

In an interview at the scene of the attack, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said “there is no profile for terrorists. It can be anyone who decided and takes out his fury in an attack.” The commander of the Jerusalem district, police Maj. Gen. Yoram Halevi was asked that evening in a television interview whether the terrorist had a permit to work in Israel and he responded: “Har Adar is Israel.” In fact, although most of the residents of Har Adar don’t consider it a settlement, it is on the other side of the pre-1967 border and the terrorist had a permit to work in the settlements, not within Israel.

read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.815908

And that's the problem in a nutshell. In international law, those occupied have a right to resist, but Israel considers it all theirs, to the extent that the commander did not even realise it was NOT in Israel.
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