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Case Analysis 03 December, 2014

Palestine: A Third Intifada?

The Unit for Political Studies

The Unit for Political Studies is the Center’s department dedicated to the study of the region’s most pressing current affairs. An integral and vital part of the ACRPS’ activities, it offers academically rigorous analysis on issues that are relevant and useful to the public, academics and policy-makers of the Arab region and beyond. The Unit for Policy Studies draws on the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars based within and outside the ACRPS. It produces three of the Center’s publication series: Situation Assessment, Policy Analysis, and Case Analysis reports. 


Introduction

In the occupied Palestinian territories, political log-jam and the escalation of measures by occupation authorities and settlers has resulted in an upsurge in acts of protest and resistance from Palestinians, leading some observers to question the potential outbreak of a third intifada. The increase of individual acts of popular national resistance, devoid of linkage to political factions or parties, appears to signal the onset of a new modality of confrontation with the occupation. In this paper we explore the characteristics of these new expressions of Palestinian resistance, the motivations underlying them, and the likely future scenarios.

Underlying Causes  

The Collapse of the Negotiations

Following continued, intensified Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank and Israeli refusal to release a fourth installment of Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian-Israeli negotiations taking place under US Secretary of State John Kerry’s so-called "framework agreement” have come up against a brick wall. The situation has had an impact on Palestinian officialdom as well as on grassroots. In the face of the political impasse, the Palestinian Authority took steps to activate the State of Palestine’s membership in international institutions, including accession to fifteen international conventions and treaties[1]; this in addition to reconciling with Hamas[2].  At the same time, a number of Palestinian youths undertook the kidnapping of three teenage settlers near Hebron on June 12 of this year. Following the discovery of their corpses, Israel launched a new military campaign against the Gaza Strip, charging Hamas with responsibility for the kidnappings. In retaliation, a group of settlers associated with gangs known as “debt collectors” carried out the execution of 16 year old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khudair, in Shu’fat, northern Jerusalem, burning him alive. Abu Khudair’s murder led to the eruption of protests throughout the neighborhoods of the old city of Jerusalem, protests that continue to date, turning Jerusalem into the epicenter of escalating events.

Israel’s Summer 2014 War on Gaza

On July 7, 2014, Israel launched a 51-day war on the Gaza Strip leading to the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians, with another 10,000 injured, not to mention the destruction of thousands of homes and vital facilities. Palestinians in the West Bank followed the day to day events of this asymmetrical war intently, and responded with organizing mass marches in Palestinian cities and along demarcation lines confronting Israeli occupation forces (at the entrances of settlements and camps, along the bypass roads that are allocated to the use of settlers, at military checkpoints). Youth groups working on their own initiative organized these protests without instruction from central political parties or reference to their political pronouncements. These demonstrations saw considerable stone-throwing and use of Molotov cocktails, as occurred in a series of repeated demonstrations held near “Ofer” camp close to the city of Ramallah, and at the “March of the 48 Thousand”[3] near the Qalandiya checkpoint at the entrance to Jerusalem City, the largest of the many demonstrations held during the war. The momentum of this march was reinforced by the absence of the Palestinian security services; these had hitherto always prevented such protests since the area in question falls within the jurisdiction of direct Israeli control, interdicting the deployment of Palestinian security forces therein. Along with other institutions of Palestinian civil society, these youth groups also organized campaigns boycotting Israeli products, and collected in-kind and material donations for people in the Gaza Strip[4].

Recurrent Settler Violence and the Policies for the Judaization of Jerusalem

The Netanyahu government has intensified its settlement-building activities in Palestinian territories in Jerusalem and the West Bank, no doubt a factor contributing to the stalling of negotiations with the Palestinian side. According to the Negotiations Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, this year alone witnessed plans to build more than 14,000 housing units in the West Bank, about half of them located in East Jerusalem[5]. Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration has also worked to organize incursions by extremist settlers, soldiers, and Jewish rabbis into the al-Aqsa Mosque.  Occurring on nearly a weekly basis, these were funded and encouraged by the Ministry of the Interior’s Knesset committee, with the assistance of the occupation police and soldiers. These incursions – tantamount to armed raids – featured the involvement of prominent Israeli extremists including Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, Minister of Housing Uri Ariel, and Israeli Knesset Vice President Moshe Viglen. Adding fuel to the fire, the Israeli government proceeded with a draft resolution by the Ministry of Interior’s Knesset committee to partition the Al-Aqsa Mosque between Jews and Arabs, with the frequent repeated incursions clearly seeking to make this a fait accompli[6].   

 
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This Report was translated by the ACRPS Translaiton and English editing team. To read the original Arabic version, which appeared online on November 28, 2014, please click here.
 

[1] Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed fifteen international conventions availing the "non-member" status enjoyed by the State of Palestine at the United Nations. The move was an attempt to pressure Israel to release the prisoners and provide him with a justification for continuing the negotiations. Reinforcing such suspicions was his avoidance of signing a request to join the most important international body, namely, the International Criminal Court, which could subject Israeli officials to prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity. See: "The Palestinian - Israeli Negotiations: A Story of Inevitable Failure", Assessment Report, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, April 12 / April 2014, at: http://172.17.30.6:3030/sites/doiportal/ar/politicalstudies/pages/palestinian-israeli_negotiations_a_story_of_inevitable_failure.aspx. The Palestinian Authority had previously repeatedly signaled its wish to join the International Criminal Court, but hesitated to take this step, even at a time when it was greatly needed, such as the summer of 2014, citing the lack of a national consensus and the external pressure exerted upon them by the American administration.

[2] Fatah and Hamas announced an end to the state of Palestinian political division on April 23, 2014, with steps taken towards the formation of a national unity government. The formation of the Palestinian unity government, the seventeenth government of the Palestinian Authority, was announced on June 2, 2014. The importance of this government lies in it ending seven years of division within the Palestinian political system, and paves the way for new elections to the Palestinian Authority, the PLO and the Palestinian National Council. There remain, however, many challenges still facing this reconciliation, not least being the actual application of the reconciliation agreement on the ground. For more see: "Palestinian Reconciliation: Motives and Prospects," Assessment Report, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, April 28, April 2014, at: http://172.17.30.6:3030/sites/doiportal/ar/politicalstudies/pages/prospects_for_palestinian_reconciliation.aspx

[3] “Two Palestinians Martyred and nearly 200 Wounded Firing from the Occupation Forces at the March of the 48 Thousand”, Arabs 48,  July 25, 2014, see: http://www.arabs48.com/?mod=articles&ID=111586

 

[4] On the results achieved by the boycott campaign initiated by Palestinian activists see: "Boycott Campaign Stacks Thousands of Tons of Israeli Products in Warehouses,"  al-Quds, August 24, 2014, at: http://www.qudsn.ps/article/47076   See also: "Boycott Campaigns Targeting Occupation’s Products Comes to Fruition," al-Quds, August 11, 2014, at: http://www.qudsn.ps/article/46434

[5] Since the beginning of the year more than 14 thousand housing units in Jerusalem and the West", Rassd, November 21, 2014, see: http://rassd.com/22-121935.htm

[6]  The law allows Jews to pray in al-Aqsa Mosque through the proposed ”equal right to worship” law, allocating both Muslims and Jews specific places and times for their prayers and (in the case of the Jews) the  performance of Talmudic rites and rituals. The proposal also prohibits organizing counter demonstrations and protests, with reference to the Palestinians. See: "Project Israeli law allows the division of Al-Aqsa Mosque," Al-Quds, October 20, 2014, at: http://www.alquds.com/news/article/view/id/529174