It is expected widely that the current outbreak of popular unrest and protests across the occupied West Bank will become a third intifada, with a new shape and activities. Will this happen or are there too many obstacles in the way?
There are clear signs that preparations are underway for a popular uprising which will rock the entire region if it breaks out; the main cause for this is the impasse with negotiations due to Israel’s ongoing settlement programme. This expansion of the illegal colonies on Palestinian land is fuelled by the ever more extreme right-wing policies of Israeli political parties backed by violence against the Palestinians by the occupation forces.
We do not expect to see any balance in America’s role in the “peace process”, nor will it put pressure on Israel to stop settlement expansion. Ahead of the visit of Barack Obama it is already being trailed that he has no “new proposals”.
The conditions across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem are getting worse. Barbaric attacks against Palestinian by illegal Jewish settlers and Israeli security forces include incursions at the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa and assaults on female students, damage to copies of the Holy Qur’an and even provocative visits by extremist Knesset Members.
Economic hardship is also on the rise, with unemployment reaching 65 per cent according to official sources.
This is all a result of Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, some of which stem from the imbalanced Paris Agreement covering economic activity between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. This ties the Palestinian economy to Israel’s, with the PA’s budget dependent on tax revenues collected by Israel on goods flowing in to the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as aid from donor countries, all of which ebb and flow according to the political climate.
The Palestinians are angry, and deservedly so, at Israel’s creeping de facto annexation of their land and Judaisation policy, especially in Jerusalem, affecting Muslim and Christian districts. Not only homes and businesses but also historic buildings have been targeted, including the one-time home of the Mufti of Palestine, Haj Amin Husseini, which Israel is turning into a tourist hotel. The Mufti is a great symbol of the Arabs and Muslims in Palestine and the wider region, and observers believe that the destruction of his home is the prelude to Israel’s usurpation of religious sites, Christian and Muslim alike, in the Holy City. The prime target is, of course, Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Added to this mix is the determination and steadfastness shown by Palestinian hunger strikers in Israel’s prisons, who are inspiring the general maturity of the conditions for a third intifada.
In the same context is the perceived corruption of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority which has abandoned any pretext of being there to protect the people of Palestine, opting instead for its “security cooperation” with the occupying power, Israel. This has seen the PA arrest many members of the opposition groups, notably Hamas and other factions in the resistance movement. Even members of Fatah have not been immune from this harassment if they don’t comply with the PA’s security agenda.
Despite all of this, it is still too soon for an intifada to erupt; the overall conditions are not right and the aims and objectives of the people have not matured sufficiently. What do I mean?
To be effective, an intifada needs to be well-organised around cooperation between the factions; it cannot happen as a result of the efforts of one group acting in isolation. In this respect, the political split between Fatah and Hamas is having a negative effect, limiting the possibilities for the struggle against the Israeli occupation.
Disputes between Palestinian factions revolve around differing opinions about the best way to challenge Israel’s policies. Some say that another intifada would be in vain; others see popular democratic and peaceful action, such as the demonstrations at Bil’in which include volunteers and international solidarity activists. Yet others believe that nothing short of a multi-front uprising, including armed resistance, is the only way to defeat the Israel occupation. The latter is the favoured option of Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is the second largest party in the current membership of the PLO.
That’s the internal situation, but a general intifada would also require external support from the Arab world, which is often missing at the moment. Insufficient aid from Arab governments is a hindrance to the Palestinians as the states around them haven’t fulfilled their promises of support pledged at the Arab Summit in Beirut in 2002, including promises to fill the coffers of the Jerusalem Fund.
In conclusion, the scene is almost set for a number of possibilities in the Palestinian land occupied by Israel in 1967. The people are boiling with indignation, hurt and discontent. A small spark could set off the third intifada which would have a major impact on everyone in the area.
As such, all Palestinian factions should concentrate on the reconciliation process to ensure that if and when it does erupt the uprising will be based on unity for the sake of the struggle against injustice. Getting rid of the internal divisions and developing a national programme with strategic depth has to be the priority.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.