War is not inevitable, but the conditions are there
As Eid approaches and the holy month of Ramadan nears an end, there is a quiet hope that
all-out conflict has been avoided – for now.
It has been a very tense month.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve woken early to explosions coming from the al Aqsa compound in the old city – every time you wonder whether
this will be the day it finally escalates out of control.
I’ve spoken to people on all sides, daily – Palestinians living in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Israelis in government and the military, Gazans, diplomats, aid workers and of
course ordinary people, just hoping to live their lives in peace, whatever faith or nationality they identify as.
The common theme is that nobody knows what might happen – it is simply too unpredictable
‘Ali, if war breaks out, it will probably happen when you least expect it, triggered by a small event that appears to be not much but ends up being the final straw,’ was the repeated advice from a trusted colleague here, who has seen it all many times before.
The tensions this year have taken on a different form to the violence that led to war 12
Sheikh Jarrah, the Palestinian neighbourhood coveted by some Israelis in east Jerusalem, has been unusually quiet; likewise Damascus Gate, where young Palestinians gather to mark iftar after sundown.
Both those were the scenes of terrible violence last
Instead, some of it has happened deep inside the West Bank, often out of sight to most people and where there haven’t been journalists on hand to record it.
IDF operations in Jenin are ongoing and have the potential to cause serious violence if the Israelis do go in heavy, as some newspapers here have speculated they might, once Ramadan is over.
What is not in doubt is that living conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank have deteriorated significantly since last year.
Young people have few prospects or chances.
They tell me they feel humiliated and oppressed, often just plain scared.
Some of them are also now openly mooting the prospect of a new intifada.
I don’t think we are at that stage, yet, but the fact they bring it unprompted is notable.
The governing Palestinian Authority is very weak and is doing little to improve life for many of its people.
Nevertheless, despite their best efforts to ferment ‘resistance’ in the West Bank this past month, Hamas is yet to get a solid toe hold in the territory.
Most troubling, perhaps, was the assessment of one humanitarian worker who told me that many in the West Bank now perceive themselves to be worse off than fellow Palestinians living in Gaza.
Gaza – the strip that has been under blockade for 15 years, repeatedly bombarded by airstrikes, and enclosed by walls and fences stopping most citizens from leaving.
And yet the perception now is that it is worse in the West Bank – that should give us pause for thought.
Another war is not inevitable, things can be done to avoid it.
But as we are today, looking back at a month of unrest and violence, the conditions for war are clearly there – if not now, then one day soon.