MPs who have visited Jerusalem and the West Bank in the last few months will know how dire the situation is and how desperate the Palestinians feel.
It is now six months since the latest wave of violence started. Since October 1st last year 15,097 Palestinians and 215 Israelis have been injured (a ratio of 70:1) and 202 Palestiniansand 24 Israelis have been killed (a ratio of 8:1). Source: UN protection of civilians database
It’s nearly two years since the last round of talks between Israelis and Palestinians brokered by the US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) collapsed in April 2014 after Israel cancelled a promised release of prisoners and announced new settlement building.
The two facts are related. It is precisely because the West has hung the Palestinians out to dry by failing to follow up the collapse of the talks with any effective pressure on the Israeli government that some Palestinians have turned to violence.
It’s worth remembering that it’s only a tiny minority of young Palestinians who have attempted to kill or injure Israelis – and they have usually been executed on the spot without any serious attempt to arrest them.
The latest video of a young Palestinian being executed by an Israeli soldier as he lay apparently unconscious on the ground tells you a lot about the casual indifference of Israelis – even Israeli ambulance workers – to the lives of Palestinians. See injured Palestinian ignored by ambulance, shot in cold blood
But instead of focusing on the 202 who have been killed, it’s worth thinking about the 15,097 who have been injured. That’s a huge number of (mainly) young people, the great majority of whom have committed no crime but have been treated in hospital for injuries sustained in protests and demonstrations.
They are victims of the Israeli army’s increasing use of excessive force against unarmed and peaceful demonstrations, including live ammunition and rubber-coated bullets. The equivalent in Britain would be for 350,000 young people to have been treated in hospital for injuries sustained in demonstrations in the last six months, 63,000 hit by rubber-coated bullets, 50,000 hit by live ammunition and 15,000 suffering from physical assaults by soldiers or vigilantes (settlers).
The Israelis call it the ‘intifada of individuals’ – an acknowledgment that it is not organised or even incited by outsiders, but the spontaneous and desperate retaliation of a generation of young Palestinians against the everyday hardships and indignities of a brutal occupation now nearly 50 years old.
The absence of any attempt by the Western powers to broker a solution means that moderate politicians are discredited and more people turn to violence. A French or a Franco-British initiative would be an important step in the right direction. But talks alone are not enough. They must be talks with a reasonable chance of success. It’s the absence of a solution that causes the violence.