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The third intifada and the decisive year

The Israeli military has warned about the outbreak of a "third intifada" in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. I have also warned of this before now, as there have been several signs that this is a distinct possibility.

First, the "peace process" and "two-state solution" have reached a dead end. Second, the increase in settlement building and expansion all over the occupied territories accompanied by ever more settler violence and intimidation. Third, the economic pressure enveloping Palestinian society thanks to the blockade, occupation and the neglect of relatives overseas. Fourth, the feeling of disgust and repulsion towards the continued internal Palestinian split. Put all of these together and it is likely that the Palestinians will channel their anger towards the Israeli occupation, inspired by the spirit of the Arab Spring.

Despite this, Israeli politicians have ignored warnings from their army and security services, driven by an inherent racist arrogance and certainty that the PA will not allow the situation to escalate beyond relatively simple protests, not least because the Authority could be the first victim of another uprising. Only when Benjamin Netanyahu realised the gravity of the situation and heeded his generals' warnings late in the day did he send Yitzhak Molho with a few offerings to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for the PA controlling the situation and "restoring the peace".

I do not know what promises Molho made, nor do I know anything about the "list of demands" that the PA might have given the Israeli envoy in return, but I do know that both sides are waiting anxiously for the visits of Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry. They each have their own reasons and priorities, of course, and it is likely that they want the visits to be met with a calm atmosphere, not marred by the sounds of bullets and the sirens of ambulances and fire engines.

Perhaps some of Israel's humble attempts to lessen the PA's anger will be successful. However, the more important question is, will Israel release some of the withheld tax revenues and even Palestinian prisoners; or exile some to the Gaza Strip in an attempt to lessen the "anger of the West Bank"? This is a critical question that should be given serious consideration.

What is not in doubt, though, is that the anger of the West Bank has much deeper reasons and factors that cannot be erased by handing over money or freeing prisoners. They are related mainly to the core issues of freedom and independence, which is the cause of Palestinians worldwide. I do not believe that the obscured horizon facing the Palestinians can be compensated by the kind of left-over measures that Netanyahu can throw them.

What is also true, without a doubt, is that the Palestinian people want to vent their anger in the faces of those who have robbed them of their rights. This will not prevent them from tackling anyone standing in their way, either, should the need arise. The PA will find, sooner or later, that it is faced with either joining its people in confronting the Israeli occupation or risk clashing with its own citizens and, inevitably in all likelihood, collapsing under their blows.

For the Israeli military and security elite, 2013 will be a year of determination. If the PA does not collapse under the pressure of the financial and political crisis, never mind the intifada, it may be given a chance to mutate into a country based on the 1967 borders  as a result of some quick negotiations determined to produce results. They will have to be radically different to the long, drawn-out talks which have been going on fruitlessly for more than two decades.

I must confess that I expect the former outcome because, for sure, Israel is in no mood to settle anything with the Palestinians. We also know that any Israeli government, no matter how broad the coalition, will not be able to deliver the minimum expected by the Palestinians, no matter how "moderate" the Palestinian negotiator.

If the PA is destined to survive this decisive year, through recovery and resuscitation, this bonus time will bear no relation to the Palestinian national project and its development. It will have a client relationship with its citizens on one hand and political division on the other. This will make each of the major factions cling to the corpse of the PA simply so that the other side won't gain overall control of it. I can't forget that some Hamas officials responded to President Abbas's threat to dissolve the Palestinian Authority by calling on him to give it to them rather than handing the keys over to Netanyahu. That is a warning for us all.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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