Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has confirmed that illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank will continue to grow. This statement came after a controversial meeting between some Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials. Allegedly, the officials agreed that both warring groups will work together to reduce ongoing violence. This “Aqaba Summit” was hosted by Jordan and attended by officials from the US and Egypt.
Reports indicate that Israel committed to “stop discussions regarding setting up new settlements for four months”. In return, the PA agreed not to take action against Israel at the UN. The host nation called this a “major progress”, and a US official stated that it was a “starting point”. However, the government does not recognize the meeting and maintains that Israel’s policy will never change.
Israeli Forces Do not Care about Aqaba Summit
Although the US welcomed the alleged commitments made at the Aqaba Summit, the Israeli government has no intention of freezing settlements, not even for a single day. PM Netanyahu tweeted that there will be no change in the “construction and regulation” in the Judea and Samaria (occupied West Bank), and things will proceed as planned. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also dismissed the meeting, adding that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will continue to conduct “counter-terrorism” without any limitations.
Israel has occupied the West Bank territory since the 1967 Six-Day War. It is home to nearly 2.9 million Palestinians and roughly 475,000 Israelis residing in state-approved settlements that violate international law.
Pro-Palestine Groups Condemn PA
Several Palestinian factions have condemned the Palestinian Authority (PA) for participating in discussions with Israeli officials. Hamas deemed the meeting “worthless” and unlikely to bring any change. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) stated that the Israel-PA meeting is akin to granting a “deed of innocence” to occupying forces. The group also referred to last week’s attack, where Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians and injured over 100 in Nablus before accusing the PA of yielding to US pressure.
An official from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) expressed similar concerns, stating that the Nablus massacre invalidated any justification for such a summit. Palestinians carried out protests to express their disappointment with the PA’s decision to collaborate with Israeli forces on any matter. They refer to the meeting as a “betrayal of the martyrs”.
The move is widely perceived as an attempt by US President Joe Biden to de-escalate the situation in the West Bank before the holy month of Ramadan. Palestinian distrust of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been increasing throughout the West Bank for years, especially after the murder of Nizar Banat. In June 2021, PA forces killed Banat, its most vocal critic, with a crowbar while he was sleeping. Another cause for concern is that the PA is known to conduct raids in the West Bank on the orders of Israeli occupying forces.
Never Ending Violence
The Aqaba Summit was convened in response to a recent surge in deadly violence that raised concerns of a larger conflict. However, during the talks, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis, including an Israeli soldier, in the occupied West Bank. The authorities described it as a “Palestinian terror attack” and vowed to apprehend the shooter and increase the number of troops in the region.
Hours after the incident, a large group of settlers arrived at the site of the shooting and began hurling stones at Palestinians. They killed one Palestinian man, and set fire to homes, trees, and cars, and families had to be evacuated. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service reported hundreds of injuries.
Since the beginning of 2023, Israeli forces have killed over 60 Palestinians, including civilians and militants. Meanwhile, 13 Israelis, including one paramilitary officer, have been killed. In January, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp, claiming they were after “Islamic Jihad terror operatives plotting major attacks.”
All efforts by the United States and its Middle Eastern allies to broker peace between Israel and Palestine have failed. Despite widespread international condemnation, Israel approved the construction of 4,000 new settlements in Palestinian territory.