It’s a little after 8 p.m. on a frigid hill in the West Bank village of Beita, and Sa’ed Hamayyel is sitting in front of a crackling outdoor fire, his face framed by smoke, telling me how his son was killed. “He was 16 years old,” the Palestinian father says. “He was a student.” On June 11, 2021, Israeli soldiers “shot him from afar … He couldn’t have posed any threat to them.”
Hamayyel is intimately familiar with the violence and loss that pervades this part of the world. Decades ago, his father, brother, and sister were all killed in combat with Israeli forces. Along with them, Hamayyel is claimed as a member by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an internationally designated terrorist group responsible for numerous attacks on civilians. But when his son Mohammed was killed, the teenager was not engaged in armed conflict. He was protesting an Israeli outpost called Evyatar, which overlooks Beita.
Although few Israelis could pinpoint Evyatar on a map, and although its existence is illegal under Israel’s own law, this tiny settlement is set to play a large role in the new Israeli government’s plans and the future of Israel and the West Bank. The reason for this is math.
The country’s new governing coalition is composed of six parties that together received just 48.4 percent of the vote. But rather than moderate the coalition’s ambitions, the fragility of this arrangement has empowered its most extreme elements, because they have become essential to the government’s continued existence. Just as U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy must now rely on the backing of radicals such as Marjorie Taylor Greene to maintain his perilous perch atop a narrow Republican majority, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu depends on his coalition’s far-right flank to maintain his precarious position atop Israeli politics.
And that flank has plans for Beita and Evyatar—plans that threaten to reverberate far beyond the two enclaves, and potentially upend the tenuous balance of power that has held for almost two decades between Israel and the Palestinians across the West Bank. [Continue reading…]