On 1 November 2022 the most right-wing government in Israeli history was elected. Members of the new Israeli coalition government have pledged to accelerate the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank – a practice that negates the possibility of a two-state solution – and loosen the rules of engagement for soldiers and police.
On 2 January, the Israeli Government informed the High Court of Justice that it intends to legalize, under Israeli law, the outpost of Homesh – which is built on private Palestinian land.
On 3 January, Israel’s new National Security Minister, far-right party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited the hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s old city — which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims — reportedly accompanied by a heavy security detail. Widely seen as a provocative act, the occasion marked the first time since 2017 that an Israeli Minister had visited the site. That move was sharply condemned by the Palestinian Authority and many States across the region, and led the Security Council to hold its first emergency meeting of 2023.
On 18 January 2023 the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, told the Security Council that 2022 was one of the Occupied Palestinian Territory’s deadliest years in recent memory. More than 150 Palestinians and over 20 Israelis had been killed in the West Bank and Israel up to 19 December last year.
“Israelis and Palestinians remain on a collision course amid escalating political and inflammatory rhetoric, as well as heightened violence in the West Bank — both with potentially grave consequences,” he warned, adding that ongoing Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are igniting tensions.
He emphasized that all such settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace but that Israeli demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned property continued through the reporting period.
On 26 January Israeli commandos killed nine Palestinians during a West Bank raid in the deadliest single day in the territory in decades. About 20 more people were seriously injured. After the attack the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank and works alongside Israel to contain militant activity, announced it was suspending security cooperation with the Israeli government. The raid’s death toll was the highest in a single operation ever recorded by the United Nations since its records began in 2005.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel was not looking to escalate the situation, though he ordered security forces “to prepare for all scenarios in the various sectors”.
Tensions in the decades-long conflict have soared as a result of the escalating violence and recent polling suggests that support for the dormant peace process has reached an all-time low on both sides.
On 27 January Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza to which Israel responded with missile strikes. On the same day a 21-year-old Palestinian drove to a Jewish settlement on the outskirts of the Palestinian side of Jerusalem and proceeded to shoot at passers-by outside a busy synagogue before he was shot dead by police. As a result prime minister Netanyahu said he would pursue sanctions against families of terrorists and present steps to “strengthen settlements”. Both of these are illegal acts under international law.
On 29 January US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Egypt and travelled to Israel on 30 where he will speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On 31 January he will travel to Ramallah to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Blinken will repeat United States calls for calm and emphasise Washington’s support for a two-state solution.