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The perils of a new intifada

Without official Arab backing, it may give Israel the pretext to uproot Palestinians from Occupied Jerusalem

Image Credit: Illustration: Nino Jose Heredia/Gulf News
Without direct political backing, a new intifada will only afford Israel with excuses to killPalestinians and confiscate and colonise Palestinianlands.
Gulf News

If last Friday's incident at the Al Haram Al Sharif compound means anything it is this: Israel's right-wing government is out of control and is bent on executing a malicious scheme to undermine Palestinian rights.

A series of deliberate provocations has been launched in the past few weeks, aimed at weakening Palestinian presence in Occupied Jerusalem, humiliating a powerless Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and challenging Arab and Muslim sentiments. The Friday clashes with Palestinian worshippers came a day after Arab foreign ministers urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to peace negotiations on US and Israeli conditions.

The so-called proximity talks, indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians through US mediation, cancel out years of laborious haggling and free the Israelis from previous commitments under the roadmap and others. It will prove to be a charade, a cover-up for an ambitious Jewish plan to confiscate land, build and expand colonies in the West Bank, force Palestinians out of Occupied Jerusalem and implement a unilateral scheme that undercuts the two-state solution forever.

Even worse, the negotiations will help Israel deflect attention from its Gaza war crimes, the Mossad scandal associated with the killing of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, a leading Hamas figure, in Dubai in January, and its daily atrocities against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

The semblance of peace talks will also help Israel launch a massive PR campaign to clean up its tarnished image while instigating world powers against Iran and its alleged nuclear threat to regional and world security.

It has always been a gloomy picture for the Palestinians. But unlike in the past few years, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu is proving to be more radical than previously thought. It is under no illusion about the prospects of a peaceful settlement; it disdains Palestinians, has no regard for Arab, and by extension, Muslim sentiments and understands fully the weaknesses of the Obama administration.

It is also playing a dangerous game. By inciting Palestinians and humiliating their leadership it is sowing the seeds for a new uprising. But this is a double-edged sword for both parties. A new intifada could very well be the best answer to Israel's aggressive policies, but without official backing, both Palestinian and Arab, the new uprising could give Israel the pretext to carry out, with impunity, a sinister ploy to uproot hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Occupied Jerusalem, expropriate more land, force its hands over Al Aqsa and the Old City and institutionalise a policy of ethnic cleansing in and around the holy city.

The simple fact is that without direct Arab backing, a new uprising cannot usher in a final solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. And with a weak and indecisive US administration, Israel could again get away with murder and more.

Ending any doubts

Abbas has few cards in his pocket which he can play to help the intifada achieve its goals and, more importantly, make it difficult for Israel to carry out its objectives. First of all, he can lend his support to a new peaceful intifada, ending any doubts about an internal dispute over the viability of a popular uprising against occupation. Also he could take an important step by suspending security cooperation with the Israelis.

If Israel does not bow down, Abbas could make the ultimate move and dissolve the PNA, forcing a return to the UN and its resolutions and enforcing the status of the West Bank and Gaza as Occupied Territories.

Without direct political backing, a new intifada will only afford Israel with excuses to kill Palestinians and confiscate and colonise Palestinian lands. Regardless of the political cost, it is up to Abbas to make the calls, including a return to peaceful resistance and a swift reconciliation with Hamas in Gaza.

In the meantime, Israel will continue to challenge the Palestinians, humiliate and penalise them. More importantly, it will try to change the status quo in its favour by extending its authority over religious sites. The battle for Occupied Jerusalem is taking a new shape and unless Abbas and his aides realise this, Israel will soon adopt new measures to fortify its control of Occupied Jerusalem and its surroundings.

A new Palestinian intifada, with proper Arab and Palestinian backing, could probably be the only shot left in Abbas' armoury, that and the courage to bring an end to the PNA's unfortunate experiment.

Two sides are hoping to make use of a new uprising to their benefit; one of them is Israel. It would be catastrophic if the Israelis manipulate a new intifada to force the Palestinians into submission. The Palestinian leadership, which has consistently favoured negotiations to resistance of any kind, must now make a choice. It is not an easy one. But the truth is that resumption of negotiations will lead to nowhere.

One only needs to listen to Israeli officials and examine the latest actions of their government to come to that conclusion. Abbas stands to lose whatever his choice will be, but it is better to fail while resisting occupation than to succumb to a humiliating deal that cannot satisfy Palestinian aspirations.


Osama Al Sharif is a veteran journalist and political commentator based in Amman.