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Third intifada not unlikely.

Byline: Hassan Barari

Amid heightened tension in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians took part in the funeral of a murdered Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was killed by Israelis. During the procession, Palestinians expressed their wrath by throwing stones and rocks at the Israeli police, which in turn responded by firing rubber bullets.

Saying that the Palestinian street has been boiling over the last week would be an understatement. Many Palestinians find it hard to avoid the realization that only another intifada can help them realize their national objectives. It is worth mentioning that the Palestinians have been simmering not only because of what they see as Israel's harsh security measures. First, the breakdown of the peace talks in last April ushered in a new era where for instance Israelis accuse President Abbas of picking unity with Hamas over peace with Israel. By the same token, the Palestinians from across the political spectrum argue that the Israeli government is only buying time and that the only important objective for it is to continue with its settlements project.

The sad conclusion is the one reached by a growing number of Palestinians. Now, many feel that there will be nothing to lose if the Palestinians resort to another deadly intifada. The level of desperation is so high that many have began to see violence as the only way that could reverse the Israeli intransigence. Of course, we have seen this movie before. The general atmosphere among Palestinians is somehow similar to the one that preceded the outbreak of Al-Aqsa intifada in 2000. It was the failure of the Camp David summit that fueled the rising tension that triggered the intifada.

Perhaps, one should remember the anger at the grassroots level is always dangerous and in some cases unpredictable. Prior to the eruption of the first intifada in December 1987 and also the second intifada in September 2000, the anger at the mass level had crossed all limits. On both occasions, it was impossible to contain that anger. Worse, when the bilateral relations get into a stage of revenge, retribution and tit-for-tat violence. But whether an intifada is going to break out or not, one should also examine the root causes of the recurrent violence. It is the persistence of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands. Obviously, it seems no one has learned anything from the past. Quietness requires trust, and this is a rare commodity. If anything, mutual mistrust has been dominating the Israeli-Palestinian interaction. Rather than working with the Palestinian Authority to figure out where the kidnapped three Israelis were, the Israeli government placed the blame on the door of Hamas. The latter's insistence on being innocent did not sway the Israeli government and therefore Netanyahu resort to military measures.

Now President Abbas is in an unenviable position. At a time he managed to bring Hamas in a unity government, he has to answer his people how to respond to the pressing situation. Immediately after the Israeli government announced the abduction of three Israeli teenagers, Abbas strongly condemned the incident. While a majority of the Palestinians do not feel that they should be held responsible for the abduction of the three Israelis teenagers, many Palestinians feel that they have become the subject of collective punishment.

Barring some immediate action to assure the Palestinians, it seems that the door is wide open to another intifada. President Abbas has been subject to pressure even from within his own faction, Fatah. In the last meeting with members of Fatah, Abbas was humiliated. Three members shouted at him accusing him of not living up to the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Equally important, if the international community continues with its wait and see approach, the situation may get even worse. De-escalation perhaps requires some external interference. Unfortunately, even the United States has been not keen to assume this role. In a nutshell, the world cannot expect the Palestinians to act differently while the occupation continues unchecked. This is the real issue that should be addressed. Short of putting an end to the Israeli occupation and of empowering the Palestinian people to establish their own independent sate, another intifada will always be looming.
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Publication:Frontier Post (Peshawar, Pakistan)
Date:Jul 8, 2014
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