Rome–The term intifada, literally ‘shaking off,’ has been applied to Palestinian uprisings since the first intifada, featuring civil disobedience and stone-throwing, broke out in 1987. The second, in 2000, quickly degenerated into suicide bombings and massive military assaults to put down demonstrations and clear Palestinian cities of gunmen.
A third is underway, with yet new twists: both Israelis and Palestinians are rising up.
Palestinian freelance killers occasionally stab or run over Israelis, both in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Ever more aggressive settlers carry out their own freelance attacks, adding the flavor of vigilantism to the extremist cause.
The Palestinians, long restrained by the do-noting rule of Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, possess no channel for political action or means of upending Israeli control of the West Bank. The list of grass-roots Palestinian exasperation is long: the receded hopes for statehood, the construction of new Israeli settlements all over the West Bank, the economic depression in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, restrictions on travel in the West Bank and the benefits of Palestine’s skeletal economy flowing toward a few well-connected oligarchs in Ramallah.
For Abu Mazen, the response to Palestinian frustration is to go into a shell. He told the UN General Assembly the other day that the Palestinians have opted out of the moribund 1993 Oslo peace accords (which he negotiated!!). He is lukewarm toward the international campaign to boycott Israeli products emanating from the West Bank, something that would at least give Palestinians a cause to rally around. And he busily squelches any move toward democracy that might give peaceable Palestinians a say in what they really want.
Israeli frustration has to do with the inability of Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government to punish the Palestinians sufficiently enough to curb violence. Each incident of killing or injury is a reminder that, no matter the height of the concrete walls and length of barbed wire, the number of roadblocks and exclusive settler roads, and the large and heavily armed military, embittered Palestinians still pose a danger to what the Israelis like to call “calm”– as in “We have to restore calm,” the mantra of security officials. The answer for settlers and a radicalized population inside 1948 Israel is to build more settlements and kill more Palestinians. And why leave chasing Palestinians to the army, with their namby-pamby rules of engagement? Settler groups carry out sometimes deadly “price tag” attacks on Palestinians, assaults that largely go unpunished by the authorities.
Netanyahu has made it clear a Palestinian state is not in the cards–for him, it never has been; in 1996, he first won election based on a pledge never to negotiate “land for peace,” the operative peace slogan of the time. But what to do about those pesky Palestinians? The best he can come up with is kill a few demonstrators, demolish a few more Palestinian houses, authorize new settlements. Oh, and to put up more TV cameras all over the West Bank. He is not so much finding a way out than tranquilizing rabid political rivals, mostly within his own ruling coalition, who want him to do even more.
There is no move between the Israelis and Palestinians to work out a real peace solution and no international pressure to nudge them along (hard to believe that the Quartet, notorious zombie among international mediating groups, has been revived). This dual intifada will probably simmer along for a good while.
Guardian says Palestinian intifada, at least, already launched.
Haaretz on what Israeli right wants.