Israeli Military Chief Warns: Explosive, Sensitive Situation Developing, Especially Among Palestinians

There's a growing risk of an escalation this year, Gadi Eisenkot tells Haaretz, predicting Israel will 'face very great challenges around the 70th anniversary celebrations'

A masked Palestinian protester walks by burning tires during clashes with Israeli troops at the entrance to Ramallah on March 12, 2018.
Nasser Nasser/AP

There’s a growing risk of a security escalation sometime this year due to developments on many fronts, but especially the Palestinian one, according to the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff.

In an interview with Haaretz, Gadi Eisenkot said that in the near term, he is most worried by what is currently happening in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel hasn’t detected any signs that any of its enemies plans to start a war, but localized developments could lead to an unplanned escalation, he said.

Gadi Eisenkot in Knesset, August 16, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Palestinian situation over the next few months will be “especially complex,” he continued, due to a series of events: the annual Land Day commemorations, which recall the killing of six Israeli Arabs during a 1976 protest against Israel’s confiscation of Arab lands; Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate the “nakba,” or “catastrophe” of their defeat in 1948; Israeli Independence Day, marking the country’s 70th anniversary; the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem; the approaching end of Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership; the failed reconciliation between Abbas’ Fatah party and its main rival, Hamas; and the economic crisis that grips Hamas-run Gaza.

 “An explosive, sensitive situation is developing in the entire Middle East, but especially among the Palestinians,” Eisenkot said. “We will face very great challenges around the 70th [anniversary] celebrations.”

While the Palestinians’ economic situation is very bad, he continued, it hasn’t yet deteriorated to the level of a humanitarian crisis. 

The full interview will be published in Haaretz’s weekend edition on Friday.