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No Intifada threat to Israel

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The virtual fiasco of ongoing negotiations between Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington D.C. has coincided with the tenth anniversary of the Second Intifada, the violent uprising of Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

The virtual fiasco of ongoing negotiations between Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington D.C. has coincided with the tenth anniversary of the Second Intifada, the violent uprising of Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

This can either down to the irony of fate or some historical trend.

The Second Intifada began exactly ten years ago, on September 28, 2000. It only stopped with the death of the first Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasser Arafat in November 2004.

Earlier that year, Israeli secret services had eliminated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Dr. Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, the two main ideologists of Hamas, a Palestinian political organization that governs the Gaza Strip, by pinpoint air strikes.

It is worth recalling that the First Intifada lasted from 1987 to 1993 and ended in the Arab political victory of 1994. After the uprising the Palestinian National Authority headed by Yasser Arafat was established in the Gaza Strip and on the West Bank.

But, returning to the subject of the Second Intifada. On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon, leader of the rightist Likud bloc, visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a location considered the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam.

Escorted by 100 police officers, Sharon and his entourage entered the Arab sector of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

At that time, Israel was ruled by the government of Ehud Barak, leader of Avod, a center-left political party.

Indignant Arab Israelis started throwing stones at Ariel Sharon and those with him. The police used truncheons and tear gas to repel the attack. Riots instigated by young Arabs broke out again the very next day after Friday prayers. The police were pelted with stones and gasoline bombs, responding with rubber bullets, killing four Arabs.

In the next few days, the uprising spread to virtually all Arab enclaves on the West Bank and also partially affected the Gaza Strip. Virtually the entire Palestinian police force, established by the Arafat administration, sided with the rebels. The Arabs were no longer only armed with stones, but Molotov cocktails and Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles as well. Israel deployed its army, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), to protect civilians.

The conflict's causes could be debated ad infinitum. At first glance, the Second Intifada was provoked by Sharon, keen to weaken his main political rival, Barak, as much as possible. Likud believed that Ehud Barak was making too many concessions to the Arabs.

Indeed, Barak withdrew Israeli forces from southern Lebanon, occupied after the 1982 war, negotiated the creation of an independent Palestinian state and the final settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with Arafat. The then bilateral peace talks were mediated by U.S. President Bill Clinton.

In July 2000, Camp David, the U.S. President's country retreat, hosted the final round of talks. However, the two opposing sides failed to reach agreement on two issues of principle, namely, the status of East Jerusalem, considered by the Arabs to be the future capital of a Palestinian state, and the repatriation of Palestinian refugees, displaced as a result of the Arab-Israeli wars, to Israel.

On the other hand, the Intifada served the interests of the Palestinian leadership, including Arafat, because of the pressure it put on Israel. In the six years following his return home, Arafat either could not or would not want to create an independent state. Also, a number of young, radical Palestinian leaders, such as Marwan Barghouti, the West Bank Fatah leader, saw it as something they could use as leverage, to wrest concessions from Barak, an Israeli "dove."

Like often before in the history of the Arab-Israeli wars, the Palestinians simply underestimated the consequences of their actions and reaped a whirlwind. About 3,000 Arabs and 900 Israelis were killed in the resulting conflict. Ehud Barak's government was also forced to resign. Sharon replaced Barak in February 2001 and nullified virtually all of his peace efforts. Launched in Madrid in 1991, the Middle East peace process was all but frozen.

What do we see today? The Palestinian camp has split into moderates and radicals. Moderate leaders include Mahmoud Abbas, who lacks Arafat's charisma, power and money. He has no choice but to look to the United States, the main mediator of the Middle East peace process, for assistance. Only the U.S. can put real pressure on Israel. Technically, Abbas opposes armed confrontation with Israel. At the same time, radicals from Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other groups advocating armed struggle against Israel are primarily located in the Gaza Strip, being subjected to a tough military-economic blockade by Israel.

In December 2008 - January 2009, the Israel Defense Forces conducted a preventive strike called Operation Cast Lead against the main elements of Hamas, destroying all the main headquarters (local cells) of the Islamic Resistance Movement, as well as most of its militants. The hostilities also caused numerous civilian casualties. Although both the European Union and Russia denounced Israel for its disproportionate use of force, the Israel Defense Forces destroyed virtually the entire Hamas military infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Israel imposed a strict blockade, severing illegal weapons supplies. The dire economic situation forces local residents to think about where their next meal is coming from, rather than war.

Given this situation, Israel has no need to fear another Intifada uprising at least for the next few years.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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