This weekend I came across three news items that I want to share.

1 – The first is an Op-Ed column from Haaretz that explores the possibility that the Saudi government is reaching out to Israel. The Arab Spring has created a confluence of common interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel that the author believes has created a tantalizing opportunity for diplomatic progress.

This possibility resembles past transformative diplomatic initiatives such as Nixon and Kissinger’s opening to China when a confluence of events made that realignment possible. The question is whether the current Israeli government, given the ideology of its coalition partners, has the strategic vision to capitalize on this opening.

2 – The second item is a feature story about a reporter’s day trip to Hebron during Passover. It offers a glimpse into what has happened to that city as the Jewish settlement there has expanded – and the resulting violence that is perpetrated against the remaining Palestinian residents. My experience is that the attitudes that are portrayed by the reporter are becoming the norm on the West Bank: skyrocketing settler violence – settlers can act with impunity with little risk of consequences – versus an evolving strategy of non-violent resistance on the part of many Palestinians. Last week I met several Palestinians in Gush Etzion outside Jerusalem whose attitudes would better be described as resignation: that resistance is futile and one just has to accept the violence and injustice. The mainstream media has not caught up with this change in the West Bank, where the occasional Palestinian violence still makes headlines but today’s widespread settler violence is mostly ignored.

Hebron street with metal grate covering it. Notice the debris thrown down by the settlers above.

3 – This past Saturday, 250 left-wing activists staged a non-violent protest bike ride through the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. A group of Israeli soldiers was waiting for them and their officer apparently led an attack. An article in The Times of Israel features a short video where you will see the IDF officer brutally hitting an activist with his rifle without any provocation. Haaretz has an article that describes the incident in greater detail – the officer alleges he was attacked first and injured – but the embedded video in that article has a technical flaw and is not clear. Unfortunately, this case of an officer allegedly acting with inappropriate violence is not an isolated case as is made evident in this column from this morning’s newspaper.

This incident reminds me of a tour of the West Bank I went on several years ago with Breaking the Silence, an organization of former IDF soldiers whose goal is to “expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.” The tour was led by a former soldier who said he was volunteering his time as an act of tshuva (repentance) for the gratuitous violence and abuse that he and his comrades had done to the Palestinians while they served in the area around Hebron. He described how his army unit was emulating the violent behavior towards the local Palestinian residents that the senior officers in the area set as an example.