Statement on the Deepening Crisis and Escalating Violence in Israel and the West Bank

February 27, 2023

J Street is deeply alarmed and saddened by the continued escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank. We are extremely concerned by the far-right Israeli government’s latest major moves toward annexation and deepening occupation, which relentlessly feed the cycle of worsening conflict and injustice.

Over just the past 24 hours, we have seen appalling new acts of violence and terror, including:

  • A Palestinian gunman killing two Israelis, brothers Hillel and Yigal Yaniv, in an ambush attack as they drove through the Palestinian town of Huwara in the West Bank.
  • An ensuing devastating pogrom carried out by Israeli settlers against Huwara, in which buildings were set on fire, nearly one hundred Palestinians were wounded and at least one was reported killed – while Israeli forces failed to restrain the settlers.
  • Another shooting attack, just today, that killed an Israeli man – who was also an American citizen – on the West Bank’s Highway 90.

Over the past week, we have seen the Netanyahu government and its extremist ministers press ahead with major steps toward annexation:

While as pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy Americans we appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Biden Administration and the international community to reduce tensions and prevent further escalation, the reality is that these efforts to date have been insufficient and ineffective.

Just yesterday, as the violence continued, a meeting in Aqaba of officials from the US, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt resulted in an apparent agreement to restrict further acts of Israeli settlement expansion and outpost “legalization” for a number of months. Yet, this agreement did nothing to roll back or penalize the major acts of annexation already announced over the past week – and nearly as soon as it was announced, Prime Minister Netanyahu and other members of his security cabinet publicly denied its terms or stated that they would not abide by it.

Just a day after the pogrom in Huwara and the meeting in Aqaba, Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir headed to an unauthorized settlement outpost to demand its legalization and state that “we must crush our enemies,” while de facto civilian governor of the West Bank, Finance Minister Smotrich, promised that “there will not be a freeze on construction and development in the settlements, not even for one day.”

In its moves toward annexation – like its ongoing assault on liberal democracy and the independent judiciary – Netanyahu’s extremist coalition is demonstrating that it will not be stopped by polite protestations or vague agreements. Only by setting clear redlines and tangible consequences can the US hope to deter this government.

Only then can the Biden Administration truly hope to halt the escalation of violence and terror, advance US interests, defend Israeli and Palestinian rights and lives, and help secure Israel’s future as a democracy.

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