The new US plan for calming Palestine-Israel tensions is already failing

Lazy eyes listen


Washington’s proposal appears to be a mutual de-escalation between Palestine and Israel, but it fails to acknowledge ground realities.

According to reports, the US Biden administration has presented a plan to defuse tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, which have risen dramatically since the formation of Israel’s new right-wing government.

According to Axios, after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken requested it during his visit to the Middle East late last month, his Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, stayed behind and worked on presenting a roadmap to prevent a violent escalation in the region. Antony Blinken urged both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to “pause” provocative actions to avoid further hostilities.

The Biden administration’s requests were initially aimed at the Palestinian Authority (PA) taking significant steps, while the Netanyahu government was given minimal requirements. Lt. Gen. Michael Fenzel, US security coordinator, proposed creating a special PA Security Force wing that would be trained by the US to fight Palestinian militias that have formed in the Jenin and Nablus areas over the last two years, according to Antony Blinken. Later, the US requested that Israel reduce the number of raids on Palestinian towns and refugee camps, as well as halt plans for significant settlement expansion, both of which Israel has refused to comply with.

The Jenin Brigades armed group announced its formation in September 2021 from the Jenin refugee camp, later growing and expanding its areas of operations to the greater Jenin area. The armed group has no discernible command and control structure. It is mostly made up of men between the ages of 18 and 25, mostly from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement and Fatah Party members who are no longer loyal to the ruling clique in the party that controls the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Later, in September 2022, the Lions’ Den armed movement announced its formation in Nablus’ old city, claiming to be independent of any political party. The Palestinian Authority’s security forces have lost control of much of the northern West Bank due to the rise of newly formed armed groups, which hasn’t happened in the West Bank since the early 2000s.

The US proposal for the Palestinian Authority to form a special force to combat armed militias is a highly risky intervention in regional affairs. It reminds me of the “peace bands” formed under the British Mandate in the late 1930s, when the British took the initiative to use Palestinians to fight each other. However, unlike back then, the Palestinian public today does not support anti-militia activities. According to all available polling data, the overwhelming majority of people support the Jenin Brigades, Lions’ Den, and other armed groups. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has been significantly weakened over the last three years as a result of a financial crisis, corruption, a lack of diplomatic breakthroughs, the postponement of national elections, and the killing and detention of Palestinians for Israeli security reasons.

Is a Third Intifada on the way?

Over the past year, the Palestinian Authority has even engaged in limited armed exchanges with newly formed militias in the West Bank, sparking mass protests from enraged West Bank residents. The most pressing issue for Palestinians in the West Bank is the PA’s’security coordination’ with Israel, which essentially means that the PA’s security forces collaborate with the Israeli military, intelligence, and border police to combat Palestinian threats against Israelis, but not the other way around. In response to Israel’s raid on the Jenin refugee camp last month, which killed ten Palestinians, including three civilians, one of whom was an elderly woman, the Palestinian Authority (PA) announced the suspension of security coordination.

Last week, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs met with Israel’s National Security Advisor, Tzachi Hanegbi, and President Abbas’ senior advisor, Hussein Fatah.