Incidents of Israeli settler violence across the West Bank are not uncommon. In fact, they happen almost every day and have increased steadily in recent years. But this week’s scenes were an unprecedented escalation. Hundreds of Israeli settlers went on a violent rampage, setting dozens of cars and homes on fire after two brothers were killed by a Palestinian gunman.
The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Bethan McKernan has been to the West Bank this week and tells me Michael Safi that many of the approximately 700,000 Israelis living in the territory and East Jerusalem are motivated by what they see as a religious mission to restore the historic land of Israel to the Jewish people. Settlement communities are seen as illegal under international law and one of the biggest obstacles to peace.
The upsurge in violence in the West Bank coincides with what some call an “Israeli Spring”. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have joined anti-government protests against proposed limits on the Supreme Court’s powers that many fear will send Israel on an authoritarian path similar to that of Turkey and Hungary. The common thread that connects the two growing crises is a government made up of influential people from the settler movement and the extreme right.