Mr. Schmemann, a former Jerusalem bureau chief for the Times, is a member of the editorial board.
After the thousands of Israelis killed on Oct. 7, and the thousands more Palestinians in Gaza killed in the war against Hamas, it may appear unseemly to focus on the relatively small and sadly familiar clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank. But it would be a mistake to overlook the danger of the escalation in settler violence over the past month.
That appears to be the calculation of the militant settlers and nationalist extremists in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, ardent champions of expanding the Jewish presence in occupied territories. By all accounts, the number of Palestinians displaced or killed in clashes with the Israeli Army have risen sharply since Oct. 7. Right-wing extremists have cited the Hamas attack as justification, but they also seem keenly aware that the diversion of global and Israeli attention away from the West Bank offers cover for more audacious land grabs.
The immediate danger is that the West Bank will also explode in large-scale violence, which could prove far bloodier and more destructive than previous uprisings. Since Oct. 7, the Israeli Army has tightened travel restrictions around the West Bank and has increased the number of raids against suspected militant hideouts. The Palestinians there whom I spoke to by telephone said people were aware of how terrible the consequences of an uprising would be.
But the mood in the West Bank, they said, is angry, and any incident could spark a wave of fury in the streets. On Thursday, at least 10 Palestinians were reported killed in an Israeli Army raid in a refugee camp in Jenin, a frequent target.