Experts warn of third intifada if settlements expand further
Mideast experts warn PM that continued settlement-building or the burning of a major mosque by extremists could ignite another violent uprising in West Bank.
By Amir Oren, Haaretz
Mideast experts warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week that construction policies in the settlements or the burning of a major mosque by extremists could help trigger a violent uprising in the West Bank.
The meeting with Netanyahu, which lasted about 90 minutes, took place Tuesday evening.
The burning of a major mosque by Jewish extremists was the greatest risk, the experts said. Violence could also be sparked, they said, if Netanyahu’s plan goes through to build 850 new housing units in the West Bank, especially if the diplomatic stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians continues.
The implementation of construction plans without diplomatic progress could undermine the Palestinian people’s support of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the experts said. It could also weaken the Palestinian security forces that are keeping a lid on violence.
The experts included professors Shimon Shamir, Emmanuel Sivan, Meir Litvak, Eyal Zisser and Anat Lapidot. Also present was Brig. Gen. (res. ) Shalom Harari – a former Arab affairs adviser to IDF Central Command, the Defense Ministry and the Israeli delegation to the Madrid and Oslo peace talks.
Also in the group were advisers on Palestinian affairs and experts on Egypt, Jordan, North Africa, Turkey and Iran, although Iran’s nuclear program was not discussed. The session was coordinated by the National Security Council, which sent officials to the meeting.
The experts presented statistics showing that the outbreak of the first intifada in December 1987 and the second intifada in September 2000 were both preceded by mass violence and violence by individuals, usually using improvised weapons. Netanyahu was told that such a trend is apparent now as well.
The session took place while the political scene was in turmoil over the planned evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.
Netanyahu reportedly did not respond when the experts warned him that the construction of the 850 apartments he pledged as compensation for the evacuation of Ulpana could spark violence. He grew tense when told that the burning of a major mosque could trigger a new Palestinian uprising, sources said.
In a broad allusion to the 1996 riots sparked by the opening of the exit to the Western Wall Tunnel near the Temple Mount, one expert told Netanyahu that the burning of a mosque could become “the rock of our existence.” Netanyahu used this phrase in 1996 to describe the tunnel’s importance.
Netanyahu shared little of his own positions and intentions, but when aspects of Islam, among them Islamic law, were mentioned, he mentioned Jewish law in response. “The greatest problem of Judaism is that its law has not developed for the past 1,000 years,” he said.
The dangers of a diplomatic stalemate are expected to be expressed Tuesday in Washington in a discussion at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. President Shimon Peres and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be on hand.
On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced President Barack Obama’s appointment of Adm. Paul Bushong as the new U.S. security coordinator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Bushong, currently a commander in Guam, as well as the head of the Pentagon mission to Micronesia, will be responsible for building up the Palestinian security forces. He will replace air force Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller, who served in the post for less than two years.
Interview: Israeli-Palestinian security coordination in low levels: official
China Daily, Xinhua
RAMALLAH — A senior Palestinian security official on Sunday told Xinhua in an interview that the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank has been declining over the past two years.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman of the PNA security apparatuses, told Xinhua at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah that Israel has been attempting to undermine the security coordination in the West Bank with the PNA, adding that “the stalled peace talks are the main reason behind this decline.”
“The decision related to the Palestinian security situation and the security coordination with Israel, is at the end a decision made by the Palestinian political leadership,” Damiri said, adding that “Security is interpreted by politics but it doesn’t make politics.”
Armed attacks carried out by West Bank militants on Israeli and settlers’ targets had become very rare since 2007. Senior Israeli security officials admitted in various occasions on this fact, however, the ongoing Israeli military incursions in the West Bank are still complained by the Palestinians.
The Israeli army ground forces carry daily incursions into West Bank towns and villages, where soldiers storm homes and carry out arrests of Palestinians — Israel says there are activists and may harm Israel’s security, while the Palestinians say this would reduce the PNA control on the territory.
According to Oslo peace accords signed between Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993, the territory was divided into three areas. Area (A) under the full PNA control, area (B) under the joint Israeli-Palestinian control and area (C) under the full Israeli security control.
“Regular meetings between Israeli and Palestinian security officers are not held as it used to be before the past two years. There are contacts between the two sides whenever there is a problem related to violations of the Israeli army or Jewish settlers assaults on the Palestinian properties,” said Damiri.
He went on saying that “the expression called security coordination between the PNA and Israel doesn’t exist, but all what exists is the Palestinian interest …”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had always rejected requests made by Islamic Hamas movement and other radical factions to severe security coordination with Israel. They claimed that the coordination always aims at uprooting Palestinian armed resistance in the West Bank.
Abbas defends the security coordination and says “it is a joint Israeli-Palestinian interests.” However, Abbas linked a resumption of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a demand to allow arms to the PNA in the West Bank and the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Abbas had told a news conference when he was visiting France few days ago that “meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can never mean the resumption of the stalled peace talks with Israel, because in the talks we need to agree to halting settlements and establishing a Palestinian state.”
In October 2010, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks stopped after the Palestinians suspended it due to Israel’s rejection to halt settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as well as Israel’s rejection to recognize the principle of the two- state solution.
“Since 2009, Israel is still refusing to allow armored vehicles donated by Russia to the PNA security forces. The vehicles are currently in Jordan and we are still waiting for Israel’s permission,” Damiri said, adding “In addition to rifles and guns donated by various friend countries.”
He stressed that the PNA “has never asked Israel to arm the PNA, but we have our Arab and foreign friends who provide us with arms, but the problem is with Israel which doesn’t allow us to bring the donated arms and vehicles to the West Bank because it knows that we are in a bad need for it.”
Damiri accused Israel of trying to “weaken the PNA security forces by not allowing the guns and vehicles to enter the West Bank,” adding that “this is Israel’s aim to do so in order to keep the PNA unable to control the security situation in the West Bank. ”
Daily confrontations go on between the Palestinians and about half a million Jewish settlers in the West Bank, and “the daily violence always embarrass the PNA security apparatuses for not being able to protect its population and refrain from intervening to avoid clashes with the army,” he said.
Damiri always said that, despite the lack of weapons and vehicles, “the PNA has been carrying out security campaigns in the West Bank cities that are under its security control for arresting wanted Palestinians who violate the law and deal with drugs and weapons.”
“The PNA is holding 50 Palestinians from various cities for being involved in violating the Palestinian laws,” said Damiri. However, various rights groups in the West Bank slammed the PNA security activities in the West Bank and Hamas activities in Gaza Strip for violating the public freedoms.