Since the 1967 War Israel has had control over the West Bank and the Palestinian community that resides within it. Due to the lack of civil liberties and human rights for Palestinian people the West Bank continues to reveal the truth about Israel’s democracy. This slow erosion undermines the severity of the type of government Israel portrays, especially the violence towards Palestinians and the continuation of settlement land in the West Bank.
In recent negotiations, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee has constructed a plan to build 540 new units to expand the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem. This would result in a new settlement in between the open land of the Har Homa settlement and the recent Givat Hamatos settlement. This new settlement exhibits a crucial step towards the goal of completion of an enclosed area of Israeli settlements on Jerusalem’s southern edge that would surround the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa. If isolated, Palestinian neighborhoods will exhaust the land reserves that are used for their livelihoods and development. Ir Amin, an Israeli activist stated, “If executed can cause an extensive outback towards the future establishment of a contiguous independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem” (Foundation for Middle East Peace).
Another issue is the rise of Israeli settler violence toward the Palestinians. According to the United Nations of Human Rights, in 2020 alone, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), documented 771 incidents of settler violence causing injury to 133 Palestinians, damaging 9,646 trees and 184 vehicles mostly in the areas of Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablus, and Ramallah. It has been said that these acts of violence motivated the acquisition of Palestinian land with intimidation and terror. Along with the new plan of settlement expansion, the new plan of expansion, violence, and intimidation prevents Palestinians from cultivating and retrieving the land. This coercive environment helps to achieve the goal of Israeli settlement expansion in Palestinian areas.
The violence against Palestinians and the addition of settlements in the West Bank both reveal the indigent and restricted lifestyle of Palestinians. Very few rights are given to the Palestinian people but even with their current situation, the aspect of violence continues to make the livelihood of Palestinians unbearable. The Israeli military is either in the area or has been notified of these horrific acts, yet there have been no further steps to bring support from the violence. Palestinians have civil control but due to the lack of security control, these violent acts can keep reoccurring. UN experts acknowledged this account as a discriminatory two-tier approach to military protection and policing in the West Bank. This is a prime example that the Israeli military seeks to only protect the settlements and ignores the prime characteristics of a “democracy”.
Palestinians have been given the short end of the stick and been served with a lack of humility. A large aspect of a democracy is adopting a system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections, active participation from the citizens in topics of politics and civic life, protection of human rights of all citizens, and rule of law. These are all aspects of democratic governance that Palestinians are not afforded in the West Bank. Israeli settlers will have full rights under Israeli citizenship on their new land but Palestinians, once on that same land and being pushed elsewhere in the West Bank, were not and will not be afforded that same status or those same rights.
Awarding civil rights and liberties for Palestinian people would mean that Israel would have to annex the West Bank to include all Palestinian people. Israel may want to remain a Jewish state, but the continuing of the “status quo” must come to an end. Israel cannot keep continuing to rule in occupied territories of Palestinians without rights or citizenship. These conditions undermine Israel’s status as the sole democracy in the Middle East. Israel must find a path forward that protects its Jewish heritage while simultaneously supports democracy in the region.
Israel/OPT: UN experts warn of rising levels of Israeli settler violence in a climate of impunity. OHCHR. (n.d.). https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26991&LangID=E.
Settlement & Annexation Report: April 8, 2021. Foundation for Middle East Peace. (2021, April 8). https://fmep.org/resource/settlement-annexation-report-april-8-2021/.