The issue of the moment is the question of an impending third intifada. Are the events taking place in Jerusalem and the West Bank heading towards another Palestinian uprising? What are the opportunities and the possibilities? What are the obstacles and the challenges? Who is working to prevent this from happening and who is working towards encouraging such an eventuality?
The truth is that the Palestinian situation, especially in the occupied West Bank, has become more complicated and this reality has prevented us from finding any straightforward or easy answers; in any case and under any conditions it would be a mistake to underestimate the possibility of events unfolding where there will be a third intifada. There are many factors contributing to the outbreak of an uprising in the occupied territories and these are currently restrained by a low ceiling. The Palestinians have many reasons to break through this ceiling and head for the streets in protest.
Israel has closed every window of hope for the Palestinian people; there are currently no portals leading to a brighter future. All the pathways to freedom and independence for a viable future state have been blocked. This does not stop at the growing expansion of the settlements or the daily violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque, or the siege imposed on Gaza; in truth, it goes beyond all of that. There is very little left for the average Palestinian to lose.
In addition, there is the bloodshed that has occurred in light of Palestinian division and the absence of national unity. This requires a new strategy because the cause has been abandoned and this reality is among many factors causing the average Palestinian to feel as though he has nothing left for himself. Many have come to realise that they must take matters into their own hands and demand that their voices are heard and that their rights are given to them in the face of all these closed doors and pathways.
The question of Jerusalem and the rights of its citizens, as well as its sanctity in both the Muslim and Christian traditions, has been transformed — because of the Hashemite Kingdom’s sponsorship — into not only into a bone of contention between the Palestinians and the Israelis but also between the Israelis and the Jordanians. Palestinian Jerusalemites have been ringing alarm bells time and time again in the past few months, and are doing so today, but the city has been demarcated and divided between occupation forces and settlers on one side and the Palestinians on the other.
Even so, this does not mean that we are headed towards an intifada, for the question at hand is far more complicated than this. We have gone through many points before and any one of them could have been an indication of another uprising, but it did not take place. Our expectations have exceeded far beyond this with three wars in Gaza, human rights violations and abuse of Palestinian Jerusalemites in Al-Aqsa, all of which have failed to ignite the fuse. Indeed, Israel’s brutal, lawless ways have become the norm for Palestinians in their everyday West Bank life.
However, recent events have affected the way in which we have started to interpret the effects that the Israeli occupation has on Palestinian life and human rights. We are now in search of a new social and political structure that will enable us to combat the security apparatus, although the catalyst for this was the fateful broadcast of a tape showing Israeli policemen severely beating a boy from Bethlehem a few weeks ago.
Yet, with all of these factors there are still those who believe that the current violence taking place in Jerusalem and the aggression taken out on Al-Aqsa is different to that which we have seen in the past and that the third intifada is undoubtedly on its way. Is this the case?
I believe that there are visible differences between how things are taking place this time around in comparison to the previous rounds of violence; the responses of the people in Jerusalem and those in the West Bank differ, for a start. The current public mood is tense, especially within the upper ranks of Fatah, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did not flick any switches in his recent speech at the UN, although he did shake up Israel’s sense of security by threatening to detonate a metaphorical bomb. Moreover, Israel’s arrogance may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back since Abbas has made no promises to keep the lid on popular anger for much longer. All of the tension that currently exists indicates that there is in fact an impending uprising on the horizon and that the chances for confrontation may reach a peak as chaos continues to define this political game.
In light of the ongoing division between the two main Palestinian factions and the sense of fear that has overtaken both parties, there is no doubt that a dark period awaits us. Fatah is not comfortable with the escalation in confrontation that Hamas has been promising the West Bank, especially at a point when many agreements are contingent upon a longstanding ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. It seems as though the leadership in Ramallah has considered the Hamas call for resistance in the West Bank to be a veiled threat to the Palestinian Authority under the pretext of standing up to the occupation. In short, Fatah believes that Hamas is planning a coup after which the latter will gain control of both Palestinian territories.
Yes, it is true that the president of the Palestinian Authority stood in New York and declared that it is no longer obligated to abide by the Oslo agreement, and that there is also a threat to dissolve the PA itself and thus bring an end to security coordination with Israel, but Abbas has yet to carry out his threats. This has more to do with the PA’s delusional outlook that there is still room for negotiations and a two state solution. Even as it waves its last playing card in the air, the PA does so under the false assumption that there will be regional and international initiatives that will change the status quo.
For all the reasons mentioned above it seems as though a third intifada is a possible scenario but it’s not the only one. There are many others that we must not underestimate. It is as if there are initiatives taking place to create a sense of calm between Israel and Palestine and to achieve economic peace and stability as well as a long-term ceasefire in Gaza. The goal is to buy more time in an effort to prevent a comprehensive explosion. As for the two state solution, it is no longer going to be the pacifier that satisfies the Palestinian people’s emotions, as many now believe that this option is a thing of the past and is no longer viable.
Translated from Addustour, 5 October 2015
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.