Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A third intifada?

In the past there have been two Palestinian "uprisings" or intifadas. The first intifada was a rather spontaneous and chaotic affair in 1987-91. The second intifada was a planned and organized insurrection against Israel from 2000-2005 led by Yasir Arafat, who had been allowed to return to "Palestine" by PM Yitzhak Rabin to head the Palestine Authority. Arafat wanted to re-establish his control over the terrorist forces after his years of absence (exiled in Tunisia) and also to try to undermine Israeli control over the "territories" of Gaza and the West Bank. In neither case were the intifadas successful in achieving their main aims. Apart from the killings, the suicide bombings and the IDF responses, Israeli control continued and the intifadas achieved nothing substantive, they did not demoralize the Israeli people. They did however prevent negotiations proceeding between Israel and the Palestinians.

Now Pres. Haniyeh of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has publicly called for a third intifada. He is doing this in order to show his disapproval of the current negotiations between Pres. Abbas of the PA, Arafat's successor, and Israel. He says that he is also in favor of a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation leading to Palestinian unity, but he can't have it both ways. What he is really trying to do is to wrest control of the Palestinian movement away from Abbas and the Fatah/PLO into the hands of Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood.

At this point in time Hamas is caught in a bind. They strongly oppose any accomodation with Israel and support the formation of a Palestinian State only as a replacement for Israel, in all of Palestine. They also support the return of all Palestinian "refugees" and the release of all Israeli prisoners. But, Hamas has a problem since the Egyptian Army under Gen. al-Sisi removed Pres. Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) from power and established an interim military government. They are currently crushing the rebel Islamists in Sinai and have destroyed almost all of the tunnels under the Egyptian-Gaza border that was the lifeline for Hamas. In order to make common cause with the MB when it was in power in Egypt, Hamas cut its ties with Shia Iran. Now it has no other potential allies. That is why Haniyeh is trying to reassert his leadership of the Palestinian movement. Israel must be careful to watch for a third intifada starting in the West Bank and to crush it with all available means, particularly if the current negotiations between Israel and the PA fail, as they are likely to do.


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