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Tensions rise between Israel, Palestinians ahead of Biden visit

While tensions are escalating on the diplomatic level, IDF troops continue Operation Break the Wave to curb spiraling violence in the West Bank and Israel.
A picture taken from the E1 corridor, a super-sensitive area of the occupied West Bank, shows the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the background on June 30, 2020.

Israel has yet to react to reports this morning that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas might decide to cut ties with Israel. Still, the escalation of tensions between the sides is evident on several levels. Officials in Jerusalem are concerned that these tensions could harm the expected visit to Israel of President Joe Biden June 24.

Reports yesterday said Israel’s Subcommittee on Objections of the Higher Planning Council (HPC) of the Civil Administration will resume discussions next month over plans for 3,412 housing units in the controversial E1 area near Jerusalem. The Subcommittee’s official agenda notice scheduled discussions for two construction plans. Discussions over these plans were frozen for several years following American and European pushback. Several Palestinian groups and Israeli NGOs have submitted over the years reservations over the plans. They are now set to be heard July 18.

Still, even if the Subcommittee rejects the reservations, several additional moves are needed before the plans can get final greenlight to be implemented. If implemented, E1 constructions will break up territorial contiguity between Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem.

As a reminder, the E1 area is located in the West Bank outside of Jerusalem, near the Maale Adumim settlement. The two E1 plans for settlement homes were first presented and received initial approval in 2012 when Benjamin Netanyahu served as prime minister but were then put on hold due to international pressure. The issue came back to Israel’s agenda under the Trump administration but was again confronted with fierce European objections. Netanyahu advanced the plans one more stage but did not manage to get final approval.

The plans came back once again last January. International pressure then ended with the discussion delayed to an unknown date. US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides revealed last March that he had lobbied against the plans. In a webinar with Peace Now activists, he said, “E1 was a disaster. I went full board on E1. … It is a very important area which, if [built], could cut off any possibility of a capital for the Palestinians.”

Eviction of the West Bank illegal outpost Homesh also increases Israeli-Palestinian tensions and international criticism. The north Samaria outpost was demolished in the framework of Israel’s 2005 Gaza disengagement, but over the tears, settlers tried time and again to rebuilt it, especially with a makeshift yeshiva on the site. On December 2021, Yehuda Dimentman was murdered in the vicinity of Homesh. Since then, settlers apply increasing pressure on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to enable them to return to the outpost. Last week the State conceded that legally the outpost must be completely evicted but did not offer a specific date for that. On May 30, Peace Now activists led a march protest there, calling on the government to evict it.

Tensions are visible also in the security arena. This morning, a Palestinian woman with a knife approached a soldier near the Al Aroub refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, and tried to stab him. The woman was shot and killed by Israeli forces at the place. The attack occurred as the soldiers were patrolling Route 60, which links Jerusalem and the Etzion settlement bloc.

Twenty Israeli nationals were killed in a series of terror attacks March and April. Following these attacks, the IDF launched operation Break the Wave, designed to curb the spiral of violence. In the framework of this ongoing operation, Israeli troops detained dozens of Palestinians suspected of planning to attack Israelis. Last night and this morning, Israeli troops arrested 12 people suspected of terror activities in villages near Nablus and near Bethlehem. On May 11, a Palestinian man in his 20s was shot in Jerusalem’s Old City after lunging at Israeli police officers. On May 26, IDF and Shin Bet forces confiscated tens of thousands of shekels apparently intended for terror activities.

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