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Israel scrambles to avoid West Bank uprising during Ramadan

Israel scrambles to avoid uprising in occupied West Bank during Ramadan
4 min read
West Bank
09 February, 2024
Israel is considering easing control measures in the West Bank to avoid major escalation during Ramadan next month amidst opposition by far-right ministers.
Israel has increased checkpoints in West Bank and suspended working permits since 7 October. [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

The Israeli government is considering easing control measures in the occupied West Bank ahead of the Muslim month of Ramadan, coming next month, to avoid a breakout of all-out violence, according to Israeli media.

The Israeli daily Yedeot Ahranot reported on Monday, 5 February, that the Israeli war cabinet is discussing easing restrictive measures on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, mainly by allowing some 100,000 Palestinian workers back into Israel and allowing the entry of a similar number of Palestinian worshipers to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month.

The measures were suggested by the Israeli army and the internal intelligence service, the Shin Bet, according to the Israeli daily. The army and the intelligence suggested that allowing workers and worshipers into Jerusalem and Israel would avoid a breakout of violence in the occupied West Bank during Ramadan.

Since 7 October, Israel suspended the entry permits of some 100.000 thousand Palestinian workers, blocked dozens of roads between cities and towns across the occupied territories and increased deadly raids, arresting nearly 7,000 Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government continues to withhold Palestinian customs money that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian authority. On 9 October,  the PA returned the customs money to Israel after it had deducted some US$160 million, equivalent to the Gaza Strip's share, used to pay public servant's salaries and electricity for the Strip.

The withholding of customs money by Israel increased the PA's financial crisis and its impact on the social and economic tension in Palestinian society, especially in the occupied West Bank.

"All basic goods have become more expensive, and salaries aren't enough", Mohammad Maher, a 31-year-old taxi driver in the Ramallah eastern villages, told The New Arab.

"My mother is a school principal in our village, and she has been receiving her incomplete salary for months", said  Maher. "Last week, she and all teachers at her school received payment equivalent to 80 per cent of their salaries, which for my mother, whose salary is the highest in her school, means only 1,000 shekels (US$300)".

"This is barely enough to buy food, and without permits to work inside the 1948 territories (Israel). Families are experiencing real hardship, which is worrying with Ramadan ahead", he added.

According to Israeli media, the Israeli cabinet did not discuss the army and intelligence recommendations in their last week's meeting due to stiff opposition by Israeli ministers of finance and security, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, both far-right fanatical settler Jewish supremacists and main allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. 

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Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid slammed Ben-Gvir's and Smotrich's positions earlier this week, saying, "If Ben-Gvir is allowed to lead the events [during Ramadan] in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa compound], then the region will ignite, which is what he wants".

Lapid also called for removing Ben-Gvir's powers during the Muslim holy month.

Last year, Ben-Gvir led groups of Israeli religious settlers storming the Al-Aqsa compound under the protection of Israeli police during Ramadan, provoking confrontations with Palestinian worshipers. Ben-Gvir also led settler stormings of the sanctuary in the months and weeks previous to 7 October, which is one of the reasons Hamas pointed to for its attack on Israeli military bases and civilian settlements within and around the "Gaza envelope". 

Since 7 October, Israeli forces have critically increased their raids on Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, killing 387 Palestinians so far, 70 of whom were killed since the beginning of 2024.