The news from Israel is grim. A conversation held with family in Jerusalem yesterday indicated that the city is gripped by fear as the sudden, unprovoked attacks from Arabs continue to escalate. Yesterday, 26- year-old Dalia Lemkus from Tekoa became the latest victim of Palestinian violence when she was struck by a car and then stabbed several times outside the Gush Etzion town of Alon Shvut. In Tel Aviv, Sgt. Almog Shiloni from Modi’in was stabbed to death after struggling with an Arab assailant. Monday actually marked one of the bloodiest days in recent memory, with, in addition to the stabbing attacks in Tel Aviv and Alon Shvut, even more violent riots in Kafr Kanna and other Arab communities in Israel.
What is not reported as widely are the daily attempts at intimidation in ordinary daily exchanges between Arabs and Jews. In a restaurant in the exclusive Mamilla shopping complex near the Old City of Jerusalem, patrons reported yesterday the sudden entry of a raucous group of young Arabs who began over turning tables and threatening waiters. The patrons were forced to flee the harassment through the kitchen. Two days ago a huge billboard, apparently authorized by the Palestinian Authority, appeared near Nablus exhorting Arabs to attack Jews in retaliation for the alleged Judaization of the Temple Mount and providing sanction from the Koran for exactly such acts. Jerusalemites are being met with increasing verbal hostility from Arab tax drivers, porters and even street cleaners.
Given these outrageous affronts, it would be fair to ask whether we are witnessing the onset of a new coordinated internal attack upon the Jewish state, uprisings which have been referred to before in Arabic as ‘Intifada’ Although sporadic Arab resistance to the Jewish state within Israel has been ongoing for the past 67 years, two periods known as bona fide “Intifadas” were December 1987 – June, 1991 and September, 2000- February, 2005. They differed from other periods of unrest in that they appeared politically coordinated and media focused.
The question now is whether PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, with the complicity and compliance of Hamas, is initiating a third Intifada which will equal in length and ferocity the two which preceded it.
The evidence and the circumstances would certainly point to it. The two previous Intifadas followed fruitless attempts to build an accommodation with the Palestinians. In September, 2000 in particular, Yasser Arafat, who had spurned then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak’s offer of 97% of the West Bank and joint control over Jerusalem’s Islamic holy sites during the summer, clearly planned an uprising which would use, much as his predecessor the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al Husseini had done in 1929 , the pretext of Jewish domination of the Temple Mount as a casus belli. Mahmoud Abbas, whom the Israelis have always seemed to rely on as a more pragmatic and less bellicose leader than Arafat, still recognizes very well the value of Palestinian dead and wounded, not only for the benefit of the world media, but also for his own internal popularity and survival.
With the West beginning to swing around behind him (the Irish and Swedish parliaments’ recognition last month of an independent Palestinian state, being vivid examples) and the U.S. government at deeper odds with the Israeli government than at almost any point in modern history, the time might be opportune to push the envelope and create circumstances by which Israel is exposed again as a murderous regime, massacring innocent Palestinian civilians. It will lead to international outrage and condemnations, laying the ground not only for a majority of the world’s governments to declare recognition of a Palestinian state but for the U.S.to abandon Israel at the United Nations ( where its veto almost alone stands against a Security Council recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank) and to apply a variety of other measures that will send a message to the Netanyahu government that the U.S. will not tolerate harsh retaliatory measures which leaves Palestinian children dead.
Forgotten by Abbas in such a calculus would be the untold damage the last two Intifadas wrought for Palestinian infrastructure and society and the economic ruin it brought so many Palestinian workers and entrepreneurs who relied exclusively on trade with Israel for their financial survival. Arafat himself, after four years of the revolt, ended a virtual prisoner in his own headquarters with his international prestige almost extinguished. Not a happy example for Abbas to emulate.
Yet what is missing in this counter argument is that Arafat (and almost certainly his successor as well), did/do not want or need a Palestinian state. To accept a Palestinian state by either negotiation or perhaps even international sanction, is to betray the essential struggle which lies at the core of Palestinian national identity – the need and desire to extirpate the so called home of the Jews. No man can claim the mantle of Palestinian leadership and retain any semblance of legitimacy by surrendering this central tenet of the Palestinian national struggle. Perhaps it is true that Abbas, with the wind of world approval at this back, would be able to convince at least part of his population that this is a stage of the phased plan for the destruction of Israel and thereby win time for the consolidation of his own power. But if history is any guide, the argument does not go down well with Palestinian hardliners – and will certainly not placate Hamas who have opposed any kind of Palestinian state which allows the State of Israel to survive. Abbas knows all too well how eagerly Hamas leaders are waiting for exactly such an accommodation in order to depose him.
The fundamental fact of Palestinian resoluteness on this issue- so willfully ignored by the media and glossed over entirely by most American and international diplomats – underlines the futility of negotiations with almost any Palestinian leader and the likely perpetuation of conflict for the forseeable future.
See in this light, the potential outbreak of a third Intifada will only be part of a continuing struggle, to see the Palestinian flag fluttering not just over Ramallah, but over the Knesset and the streets of Tel Aviv as well. There can no peaceful co-existence under such circumstances. The sad truth is that Israel and the Palestinians are doomed for the immediate future to a protracted conflict which will be decided ultimately only by force of arms and the State of Israel’s continued domination and policing of the areas from which Arab terrorism is incubated and launched.