by ALI BADWAN
This article was originally posted in the Middle East Monitor website.
The recent resistance actions in the occupied West Bank prove, once again, that the Palestinians cannot accept the miserable reality in which they live. This reality includes the impasse in the “peace process” which has been moribund for a long time, as well as what has been happening in occupied Jerusalem, with raids, incursions, attacks and violations of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Action targeting armed settlers and the Israeli army stem from the oppressive measures put in place by the occupation authorities. This reached a climax after the incident in the illegal Itamar settlement south-east of Nablus on the night of 3 October. The settlers there included an Israeli intelligence officer, who was killed in the attack.
These acts of resistance (both popular and armed) are spontaneous. There is no organisation or coordination and no direct involvement of any Palestinian faction.
This suggests that the Palestinian people will not fold out of frustration and desperation. The tension and discontent have reached very high levels, especially amongst the youth. This is evidenced by the young martyrs Dia’ Talahma, Muhannad Halabi, Fadi Alloun and Abdul-Rahman Obeidallah.
It was a coincidence that the timing of this action came just 24 hours after the Palestinian Authority president spoke at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly. It was as if the youth were sending a message to the Israelis and their far-right government, as well as to the PA itself.
Are we on the verge of a third Palestinian intifada that will shake the ground the occupation is standing on, or are conditions still not ready for it? Yes, the Palestinians are ready and willing to sacrifice themselves and take action, but this does not mean that an uprising is imminent. There are still serious obstacles in terms of the reality in the Arab, regional and international arenas, as well as within Palestine.
Everyone knows that the Palestinians are unable to confront Israel on their own. The absence of any meaningful wider Arab involvement encourages the Israeli government to continue with its illegal settlements, the Judaisation of Jerusalem, the destruction of homes and the displacement of the people. Indeed, Israel is encouraged by the Arabs’ reliance on the strategy of “peace as the only Arab option” to confront its brutal policies.
The outbreak of a comprehensive Palestinian intifada in the West Bank requires incubators of political, financial and moral support; Arab and Muslim incubators. It also requires a solution to the greatest obstacle in the Palestinian arena, the political division, and the inconsistences between the PA’s programme in Ramallah and its reliance on negotiations as the sole means to achieve peace on one hand, and the other programmes adopted by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, some PLO forces (such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), and even within some branches of Fatah, on the other.
According to most predictions, Hamas has been working hard towards popular mobilisation, and even armed mobilisation, in the West Bank in order to provide some relief to the Gaza Front, which has paid a heavy price over the past few years. Since 2007, it has faced three fierce Israeli military offensives and has been suffering from an ongoing blockade.
Hamas’s efforts to confront the occupation are no secret. Many of its leaders and officials have called explicitly for letting the resistance loose in the West Bank, as they regard it as a main battlefield in the struggle for freedom.
Some also believe that this is an attempt to reveal the true position of the PA in Ramallah and expose it, as well as an effort to preserve the legitimacy and survival of military resistance, which is demanded by the officers in the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades.
With regards to the Israelis, there are already fears about the outbreak of a third intifada. Netanyahu’s government is refraining from pushing until the issue explodes, despite the general recklessness of its policies and support from the far-right for the army to carry out retaliatory acts against the Palestinians.
Many members of the Knesset from both the government coalition and the opposition have voiced their criticism of Netanyahu, demanding that he intensify the crackdown and provide a so-called “counter-terrorism” plan.
Some Israeli commentators, though, have called for the government do what it can to avoid an uprising and the consequences that it will have. One suggested that the situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank is at a crossroads. He said that the Israelis should move towards mitigating the situation and establishing normal life in the West Bank and lifting the majority of the restrictions imposed on the Palestinians, and entering negotiations. The alternative is to move towards a comprehensive confrontation that will pull in the Gaza Strip.
Another commentator told the government that it can call what is happening whatever it likes, but in his opinion the intifada has started. He holds Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for this, because there is a lack of any kind of hope. The prime minister, he added, might believe that he can do whatever he likes without provoking a Palestinian reaction; that he can besiege them, confiscate their land, build settlements, and control them, and expect them to keep their heads down and surrender. But he can’t.
Furthermore, everything points to the lack of desire and ability within Israel to send the army back into the West Bank cities, as happened after the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000. The Israelis waited a year and a half until launching “Operation Defensive Shield” in the spring of 2002, which ended with the besieging of the late President Yasser Arafat in his Ramallah compound.
We can expect different tactics this time. These may include the imposition of a blockade on all the major cities and towns, as well as the arrest of thousands more young Palestinians and activists from various organisations in an attempt to put pressure on the resistance psychologically and practically.
The bottom line is that we are facing a situation in Palestine that is reaching boiling point. This requires all of the actors in the arena to listen to the voice of reason and prioritise the higher national interest of the Palestinian people. It also requires them to overcome their factional and organisational rivalries and prepare for a united confrontation in the next stage, which may be harsh on the Palestinians.