Israeli Pressure on Palestinians Could Spark Violent Escalation, Palestinian Authority and Hamas Warn

Israel's withholding of tax funds and aggression by settlers and the IDF are increasing pressure – with potentially grave consequences, senior official says

Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli soldiers near Hebron's main street during an annual demonstration in memory of the 1994 Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, West Bank, February 22, 2019.

 Senior officials in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas said Monday a violent escalation was possible if Israel did not ease its increasing pressure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Only the Israeli government and the international community could improve the situation, and the latter was not showing enough interest, the officials said.

The governor of the Nablus district, Akram Rajoub, told Haaretz that no one could predict the reaction on the street, but added pressure on civilians was not the answer.

>> Analysis: The ticking time bomb that could upend Israel's election ■ Opinion: Palestinians have no confidence in the Palestinian president

He said Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax funds or any funds that belonged to the PA, alongside aggression by settlers or the army, were only making matters worse.

Rajoub added that the Palestinian people haven’t seen any hope of a diplomatic agreement with Israel in years, and now their livelihood was being threatened as well.

“This means a deepening of poverty and a deepening of anger and rage, so what do they expect?” Rajoub said.

Families of prisoners and Palestinians killed by Israeli forces who receive monthly allowances from the PLO said Israel’s withholding of funds affected not only them but the entire Palestinian people.

“These funds don’t make a family wealthy,” said Qadura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club. “The money is used for basic living allowances, which means that in the end everybody will suffer. From the grocer to the taxi driver, this move will disrupt the whole system.”

According to Fares, no one can tell when things will boil over, but all the elements for such a scenario are in place. He said the ongoing arrests in Jerusalem were also heightening the tensions.

Over the past few days, the Palestinian Prisoners Club has condemned the disruption of cellphone reception in prisons. The group said it wasn’t a question of cellphone use but that the prisoners “feel like they’re living in a microwave.” Meanwhile, radio and television reception has also been affected.  

A Hamas official who recently met with senior officials in the PA said Hamas did not seek a violent confrontation.

“The organization doesn’t want to be dragged into a confrontation with Netanyahu and take blows for his political gains, but the pressure is rising, and if Israel attacks in any way, all the factions will retaliate and things will spiral out of control,” he reportedly said.

In the meantime, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is continuing with his efforts to form a common Arab position in preparation for the Trump administration’s peace plan, especially with Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The PA is concerned about the immediate effects of Israel’s withholding of tax funds and is striving to create a financial safety net that will let the authority function in the meantime.