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Waiting for a third intifada

Articles and photos from 1) Al Akhbar, 2) Palestine Chronicle, 3) Al Jazeera, 4) UPI agency

October 2013. Palestinian protesters hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers during clashes in Betunia, near Ramallah. Photo by Mohamad Totokman / Reuters

West Bank: Omens of a Third Intifada

By Malik Samara, Al Akhbar,
September 26, 2013

The reigning state of despair among Palestinians has been growing steadily since the end of the Second Intifada. Day after day, the Israeli occupation expands as the options for Palestinians, ostensibly represented by a new generation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) eager to seek a “settlement,” grow narrower. The killing has not abated, nor the settlement movement and the Judaization of Jerusalem. The “peace process” track continues as a “strategic option.” But the streets have not come to a rest since the Second Intifada, as they didn’t after the First Intifada and during the period of the Oslo Agreement.

Although, the frequency of clashes and confrontations might have decreased, the revolution continues to simmer, awaiting a spark to ignite. Today the situation in the West Bank evokes the period leading up to the First Intifada. The pace of clashes is rising and military operations are intensifying, despite the project for peace.

Ramallah – In a matter of hours, attention shifted from the far north of the West Bank to the south. In Qalqilya in the north, a Palestinian citizen named Nidal Emer led Israeli air force pilot Tomer Khazan to an empty spot. He killed him, in order to swap his body with that of his detained brother. Nidal took the initiative, but ended up like his brother: in an occupation cell.

In Hebron in the south, amid daily clashes between occupation forces and residents, a Palestinian sniper shot at stationed soldiers, killing one and injuring another. The occupation forces retaliated, closing the city and waging a sweeping campaign of arrests, but were unable to find the “unidentified shooter.”

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – Knights of the Galilee, part of Fatah, claimed the operation in Qalqilya. Some people were optimistic about the movement’s return to special operations and the escape of the Fatah genie from the PNA’s bottle. However, its credibility was soon called into doubt the next day, when it issued another statement also claiming the Hebron operation, which had already been claimed by al-Asifa, part of Fatah-Intifada, which had split from the Fatah Movement in 1983.

On Israeli Radio 2, an Israeli security official spoke about the continuing security coordination between the PNA and Israel to capture the “killer” in Hebron. The father of the man from Qalqilya denounced his son to the station. “My son is a killer and deserves to be killed,” he said.

But it does not matter anymore. What matters is that Palestinian youth can take the initiative from outside of the quarreling factions and narrow interests of the political parties. Two soldiers were killed in less than 24 hours, something that has not happened since the Second Intifada, whose anniversary falls next Friday.

The details of the Hebron operation remain unclear, despite the maniacal security operation, which led to the arrest of a man close to 100 years of age for owning an Ottoman era rifle. The identity of the Hebron sniper is not yet clear, however, and the statements by the factions claiming the operation have not been verified.

There have been increasingly violent clashes in and near Hebron this year since this photo was taken in February showing the border police taking up position. At this demonstration in solidarity with political prisoners a young Palestinian was shot and killed with a dum-dum bullet, which is proscribed by international law. Photo by Ammar Awad / Reuters

Meanwhile, military experts in the occupation army have maintained that the sniper was professional and successfully carried out the operation in its three stages: locating the perfect spot, selecting a target, and the withdrawal of security. The sniper picked a soldier standing on open ground, so that the bullet would not ricochet behind him. However, the downside of the operation were the ensuing squabbles between the parties and their lack of credibility, exposed after contradictory statements were issued within less than an hour by two factions with a long history of political disagreements.

This negative fallout also plagued the Second Intifada and was one of the most important factors in its collapse. However, the breadth and size of the clashes of last month, especially in the West Bank and Jerusalem camps, could herald a new uprising.

Amidst all the fury, a young group calling itself the Intifada Youth Coalition is calling for mobilization and protests to protect sacred sites next Friday, which coincides with the anniversary of the Second Intifada. A video made by the coalition is being widely shared on social media sites. In it, a young man calls for confronting the occupation on all fronts set to a song by Julia Boutros, Ya Thuwar al-Ard, which brings to mind the Second Intifada.

Despite differences between the factions, there is a general consensus rejecting negotiations. Several factions launched a popular campaign against the negotiations at a press conference in Ramallah, attended by all PLO factions.

Senior Fatah officials have also expressed their rejection of the negotiations process, including central committee member Abbas Zaki, who declared that negotiations were futile and called for “struggle and insisting on Palestinian constants.”

Even figures who had participated in the Oslo process have expressed, albeit timidly, their regret at signing the agreement, including Yasser Abed Rabbu and Ahmed Qorei. The head Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat went as far as complaining that “Israel is not fulfilling its obligations.”

However, this was not enough to inspire the Palestinian leadership to halt or even postpone negotiations for one day, despite the fact that three young men were martyred in Qalandiya. It did not even review the “legitimacy” of its choice, which contradicts the consensus of PLO factions, nor did it change its policies or strategies, which seem to be wholly focused on turning “Palestinian life into negotiations.”

Seven martyrs have fallen since the beginning of the latest round of negotiations two months ago. They were all from the camps where the First Intifada erupted and caused the most trouble during the Second.

Palestinian mourners carry the corpse of Islam al-Toubassi at the Jenin refugee camp where he was shot by Israeli forces during a raid on his home. Photo by Issam Ramawi / APA images.

It is enough to see the sacrifices of Jenin camp, which was back in the headlines following the martyrdom of Islam al-Toubassi at the beginning of this week. The incident led to a limited military operation at the nearby Jalama checkpoint, before the PNA’s security forces managed to suppress the camp’s anger, prohibiting its residents from reaching the frontline areas.

But Jenin is the not the only camp where the revolution is still simmering. In Qalandiya, three Palestinians were recently martyred and clashes continue near the Qalandiya occupation checkpoint nearby. In al-Oroub and al-Fawwar camps in Hebron, clashes have been occurring on a daily basis with the occupation forces stationed nearby, far from the eyes of the media and the PNA’s forces.

Current conditions and factors do not provide Palestinians with any other option. Al-Aqsa mosque faces daily raids and there have been calls by Israelis for a million person march on the holy site to coincide with the anniversary of its storming by Ariel Sharon, which laid the ground for the Second Intifada.

Popular mobilization against Israel is also on the rise inside the 1948 territories, particularly in the Negev and the Triangle, which also coincides with the October 1 revolt that led to the martyrdom of 13 Palestinians from the occupied territories.

It seems the break out of a third intifada is only a matter of time. Friday could be the day the phoenix rises from the ashes.

The PNA Impedes the Intifada

The PNA has cloaked all options following Oslo under the guise of the “national project.” Anyone who objects or dissents falls outside this project. Under this slogan, the Palestinian resistance was liquidated in the West Bank, including the al-Aqsa Brigades, where the PNA’s forces are the only power on the ground. Any weapons not in its hands have become outlawed.

The PNA suppressed all action against negotiations, supported by its wide popular base which follows the Fatah movement and the regional winds that put wind in its sails. The PNA has the money and media and is capable of manipulating the discourse. Sometimes it dons the robe of piety, accusing its detractors of debauchery and blasphemy, as it does with the PFLP, for example.

With Hamas, accusations of bartering with religion and extremism are mounted. Fatah’s minister of awqaf (endowments) unabashedly declared a fatwa for “revolution against Hamas” and forbade any opposition to the president in the West Bank.

In political differences it finds an opportunity to avoid facing reality, accusing others of instigating a crisis.

The bedlam following the killing of the two soldiers is the responsibility of Hamas, according to Fatah spokesperson Usama al-Qawasimi, who said that “Hamas’ credibility in the Palestinian street suffered a serious blow after the uncovering of their real schemes and their use of religion and resistance as a cover. If Hamas wanted to change the situation and aim for resistance, it has to start resisting in Gaza and to maintain the truce with Israel at gunpoint.”

Photos of the clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in the Al Aqsa compound (the noble sanctuary). All photos by Muammar Awad /Xinhua 

Palestinians Smash Hole in Israel’s Separation Wall

By Ma’an/Palestine Chronicle
September 28 2013

Dozens of Palestinian youths on Tuesday smashed a hole in Israel’s separation wall in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, locals said.

The youths managed to open a 60-cm hole in the wall separating the village from Jerusalem, before Israeli forces arrived at the scene and fired tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber coated steel bullets to disperse the Palestinians, witnesses said.

Fatah leader in Abu Dis Anwar Bader told Ma’an that demonstrations were held in al-Eizariya and Abu Dis in solidarity against Israeli violations in Jerusalem.

The demonstrations turned into clashes when Palestinians threw rocks and empty bottles and closed the roads with burning tires, he added.

Demonstrations in solidarity with Jerusalem have taken place across the Palestinian territories after Israel repeatedly limited Palestinian access to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque over the past weeks.

The al-Aqsa compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.

It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood.

Photo from Occupied Palestine, April 2013, Jerusalem

Is a Third Intifada in the offing?

A worsening Palestinian economy, peace process stalemate, and Israeli expansion could lead to new uprising.

By Khalid Amayreh, Al Jazeera
October 01, 2013

‘Prayer rights’ at al-Aqsa Mosque is the latest bone of contention between Israel and the Palestinians [AFP]
Hebron, Occupied West Bank – The recent killing of two Israeli soldiers has broken a relative calm in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and some observers say the incidents could be a prelude to yet another Palestinian uprising.

One of the soldiers was killed September 21 near the northern West Bank town of Kalkilya, and the Israeli army arrested a Palestinian suspect shortly afterward. The perpetrator reportedly confessed to having killed the soldier with the intention of exchanging his body for his brother, who is serving a lengthy prison sentence in an Israeli jail.

According to Israeli sources, the other soldier – killed in the southern Palestinian town of Hebron the following day – was shot by a “professional Palestinian sniper”. Israeli troops launched a manhunt to apprehend the Palestinian suspect in the second killing, but so far no arrests have been made.

The two incidents have given rise to speculation that a Third Intifada may be in the offing, especially in light of mounting frustration among many ordinary Palestinians stemming from the peace process stalemate, and Israeli efforts to gain a foothold at the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem.

Palestinian uprisings against Israel’s occupation were launched in 1987 and 2000 – known as the First Intifada and Second Intifada, respectively – leading to many deaths on both sides.

Economic pressures

Palestinian man arrested for protesting against the continued closure of the road leading to his village, Qaryut, south of Nablus. Photo by Nedal Eshtayah / APA.

The harsh economic situation is also putting enormous pressure on most Palestinians, contributing to collective frustration and rage. This may explain why most Palestinian factions, including Fatah, have blamed the Israeli occupation for the two incidents involving Israeli soldiers.

“Occupation begets violence,” said Abbas Zaki, a prominent aide to Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian pundits differ as to whether the recent events indicate a resumption of armed resistance against Israel on a significant scale is in the immediate future.

“We are already on the eve of a new intifada,” Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk has been quoted as saying,

But Walid Suleiman, editor-in-chief of the Akbar al-Khalil newspaper, said while “an uprising of some sort” may be inevitable given the deadlock facing the “so-called peace process”, an imminent intifada is highly unlikely.

You surely don’t expect me to tell you an uprising will take place on a given day and time. But I can tell you with a high degree of certitude that an intifada is coming, perhaps sooner than many of us think.

-Abu Jihad, grass-roots Fatah leader

“Some Palestinians who are frustrated with the present situation are eager to see some sort of uprising take place, if only to stir stagnant waters. But an intifada is not a romantic affair which you can start and quit at will,” Suleiman said.

“An intifada is mostly blood and fire, and if the Palestinian people and factions are not thoroughly prepared for it, it could have disastrous consequences.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Suleiman said there were “a thousand reasons” that would drive Palestinians to rise up and revolt against Israel.

“However, Palestinians must always look before they leap, especially in light of the bitter experience of the past two uprisings.”

Nayef Rajoub, a Hamas member and former religious affairs minister in the Palestinian Authority, concurred.

“I think the overall Palestinian reality is not ripe for the outbreak of a new uprising,” he said.

“Yes, factors conducive to the eruption of an intifada are plenty and ubiquitous, but conditions on the ground are far from ripe for starting an all-out uprising.”

Rajoub, an Islamist MP who has been repeatedly persecuted by both Israel and the PA for his political activism, said a successful intifada would require political concordance and consensus among Palestinians, which doesn’t exist now.

“The PA is strongly against the resumption of armed resistance against Israel and it would do everything possible to suppress any expression of violent, or even pro-active, resistance against Israel,” he said. “At the same time, the PA can’t provide satisfactory answers to people’s legitimate grievances, given the political deadlock and harsh economic crisis. Hence, the problem.”

‘Narrowing our horizons’

Jamil Muzher, a leading figure in the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), said neither of the two previous uprisings was planned beforehand.

“You can’t plan an intifada. A planned intifada is doomed. The most important factor prompting the masses to revolt is Israeli repression, and Israel is narrowing our horizons as never before. Our people just cannot take anymore,” Muzher said.

Abu Jihad, a grass-roots Fatah leader in the southern West Bank, agreed. “You surely don’t expect me to tell you an uprising will take place on a given day and time, but I can tell you with a high degree of certitude that an intifada is coming, perhaps sooner than many of us think.”

Palestinians on both sides of the debate do agree that frustration has reached a breaking point, and whatever hopes existed for a dignified peace settlement with Israel have effectively evaporated.

Political science professor Abdul Satar Qassem launched a scathing attack on the Palestinian Authority, accusing it of “encouraging excessive consumerism at the expense of resistance, leading a police state [without a state], spreading moral decadence and fostering immoral lifestyles.

“We have had 25 intifadas since 1936, and all of them failed without any exception. In order to have success, the resistance must be secret and professional.”

Al-Aqsa game-changer?

Qassem, also an outspoken critic of the Oslo Accords, said the PA was hell-bent on “decapitating the culture of resistance” among the Palestinian people, and he accused it having spies watching people’s every move.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem [Getty Images]
“Look at what they have done. They hired informers to spy on every Palestinian, and at the same time they are encouraging people to hanker after their primitive desires and forget the occupation.”

Reacting to Qassem’s remarks, Ihab Bsiso, head of the government press office in Ramallah, said, “The PA is certainly not perfect. But we are working day and night to enhance the steadfastness of our people, and make them better prepared to withstand the horrors of a sinister foreign military occupation.

“Yes, there are mistakes, but I assure you we are making worthwhile achievements, despite the paucity of resources and the often crippling restrictions of the Israeli occupation.”

The incendiary situation could blow up even though neither side, Israel or the PA, wish to see a bloody confrontation take place.

According to some Palestinian pundits, Israel’s moves into the al- Aqsa Mosque may prove to be the ultimate game-changer in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last week, dozens of Israeli Knesset members urged their government to bar Muslims from accessing the Islamic sanctuary, the third holiest in Islam, until Jews were granted equal prayer rights there.

The following day, Israeli troops stormed the grounds of the mosque, beat Muslim worshipers, and banished a number of Muslim leaders from Jerusalem for “incitement and disturbing the peace”.

The Palestinian Authority, Jordan and others protested the Israeli provocation, however, the calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears in Israel.

West Bank killings heighten fears of new intifada

October 14, 2013

RAMALLAH — With three Israelis killed in the West Bank in as many weeks and new clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s flashpoint holy sites there are growing concerns that another Palestinian intifada is brewing.
The dwindling prospects of a U.S.-brokered peace agreement amid the ever-expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, occupied by the Israelis since June 1967, is adding to the swelling tension.

Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who despite agreeing to U.S. peacemaking efforts has shown no sign of surrendering the West Bank, has been stoking the unease with hard-line statements that emphasize the government’s no-deal stand.

In a forthright Oct. 7 speech at Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University, where in 2009 he acknowledged for the first time the two-state solution of an independent Palestinian state existing alongside the Jewish state, Netanyahu was more hawkish than ever.

The daily Haaretz reported Netanyahu “did everything except announce he is reneging on his agreement in principle” regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu declared: “Unless the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state and give up the right of return there will be no peace.”

He went on say even if the Palestinians did agree to those stern conditions, it won’t be enough for Israel.

“After generations of incitement we have no confidence that such recognition will percolate down to the Palestinian people. That is why we need extremely strong security arrangements and to go forward, but not blindly.”

The root of the conflict, he declared, was not the occupation, but that the Palestinians do not want the Jews in the land of Israel.

Netanyahu spoke against a steady increase in violence in the West Bank, which the religious settlers claim was promised to the Israelis by God, that included the slaying of two soldiers in September and the savage ax murder of a former Special Forces Col. Shariyah Ofer in his Jordan Valley home.

The Shin Bet security service says terrorists carried out the killings.

With the stabbing of a 9-year-old girl in the Psagot settlement Saturday, The Jerusalem Post said the violence shows “an unmistakable upsurge in Palestinian attacks … in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” the Arab sector of the holy city captured in the 1967 war.

Shin Bet recorded 129 attacks in September, up from 93 in August.

The Post warned Hamas and Islamic Jihad are trying to build up their terrorist infrastructure to ramp up attacks in the West Bank.

Meantime there have been clashes around the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine, in East Jerusalem and a frequent flashpoint.

Palestinian militants called for an uprising because Jewish groups escorted by police visited the site. Jews revere the site as the location of their biblical temples.

Palestinian frustration at the government’s failure to curb settlement expansion and the increasingly strident statements from Netanyahu and his rightwing allies is fueled by nearly three years of regionwide uprisings against Arab dictators.

Israelis, too, are increasingly anxious as they see their international isolation growing amid the regional turmoil, expanding terrorism in Sinai, the Syrian war and U.S. moves exploring a rapprochement with Iran, which Netanyahu sees as an existential threat to Israel.

This has produced a highly charged climate of mutual apprehension.

There have been two uprisings against the 46-year-old occupation of the Palestinian territories. Gaza has been under Palestinian control since June 2005.

Neither intifada, the first in 1987-93, and second in 2000-05, succeeded in ending the occupation although the first helped precipitate the 1993 Oslo Accords.

But the peace process essentially ground to a standstill in 2000, when the Camp David summit failed and the second intifada, far bloodier than the first, erupted with a pulverizing campaign of suicide bombings against Israeli cities.

Most analysts don’t believe a new uprising will be any more successful than its predecessors.

But the Palestinians increasingly have less and less to lose. The settler population swelled to 342,000 in 2012, a growth rate three times greater than the national rate of 1.9 percent.

Israel has sole control over 61 percent of the West Bank, where the Palestinians want to establish a state. That area contains most of the territory’s natural resources.

There have been repeated attempts by young Palestinians to smash through the separation wall at Abu Dis in particular, this one on October 3rd, 2013. Photo by Corbis Images.

Youths smash hole in Israel’s separation wall near Abu Dis

By Ma’an news
October 24, 2013

JERUSALEM– Dozens of young Palestinians smashed a hole in Israel’s separation wall near Abu Dis on Wednesday, as clashes broke out in the town for the second day in a row.

Popular resistance committee spokesman Hani Halbiya told Ma’an that youths made a 3-meter hole in part of the wall in protest against a house demolition in Abu Dis late Monday.

Workers spent several hours repairing the wall under the guard of Israeli security forces.

After military forces left the area, Palestinian youths returned to the wall and reopened the hole, Halbiya said. Israeli forces then raided Abu Dis and fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs.

Two people were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets.

Israeli forces demolished part of a home in Abu Dis late Monday under the pretext that it was unlicensed.

The administration of Al-Quds University suspended classes on Tuesday after Israeli forces closed off the area. Another two schools in Abu Dis were also forced to suspend classes due to the presence of Israeli military forces.

Israel has destroyed more than 500 Palestinian properties in the West Bank and mostly East Jerusalem since the beginning of this year, displacing 862 people, according to OCHA.

Uneasy calm in the West Bank following several violent incidents

Tension on the Temple Mount, where right-wingers are making sustained efforts to change the status quo, is the primary danger

By Amos Harel, Ha’aretz
October 24, 2013

At 4 P.M. on Tuesday, only about 10 young Palestinian men remained on the road adjacent to the separation barrier near Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. One, in a red shirt, occasionally ran across the road to hurl rocks and swear in Hebrew at the Border Police officers facing him. He kept a safe distance from the tired, seemingly bored policemen, who periodically fired a rubber-tipped bullet or two in the direction of the protesters, for the sake of propriety.

The previous night, the army demolished the skeleton of a building and tall mound of dirt next to the barrier on the eastern, Palestinian side. Here the barrier is a high wall, a huge concrete monster that bisects Abu Dis. The berm had grown gradually over the past few months, to a height of five meters next to the seven-meter wall. Local Palestinian climbed it to hurl rocks and firebombs at passing Israel Defense Forces jeeps on the other side of the wall. The Palestinian Authority rebuffed an Israeli attempt to see if it might remove the mound itself, so the IDF took action.

The army expected at least 600 protesters at the demolition, as these measures have become rare events of late. But Sari Nusseibeh, the president of Al-Quds University nearby, got wind of the IDF’s plan and canceled classes for the day. Around 12,00 students stayed at home and there were no more than 200 demonstrators at any time. Two were shot by Border Police officers and wounded slightly, two others were arrested. The protest fizzled out after a few hours.

It is difficult to reconcile the various reports coming out of the West Bank these days. On one hand, popular protests against the Jewish settlements and the separation barrier have lost some of their momentum in the past several months, witness the fact that even a demolition did not provoke mass protests.

During Ramadan, in July and early August, hundreds of thousands of West Bank Palestinians celebrated in West Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv, crossing over easily with the permission of the army and the Israel Police and the IDF. (The Civil Administration recently received a letter from the owners of a certain shopping mall in Jerusalem, thanking the agency for the sharp spike in sales due to the Palestinian tourists during the month-long holiday.)

On the other hand, this relative calm, the seeming indifference of most West Bank Palestinians (which the IDF insists on calling “the street”), seems incongruent with the numerous recent incidents reported in the Israeli media.

On the same night as the demolition in Abu Dis, the Police Special Anti-Terror Unit (Yamam) cornered a wanted member of Islamic Jihad, Mohammed A’atzi, hiding in a cave in Bil’in, west of Ramallah. A’atzi, who according to the Shin Bet was responsible for a bombing that killed civilians in Tel Aviv in November, was killed by a rocket after exchanging fire with the police.

An incident like this, in which a wanted man was prepared to fight until the death, has not been seen in the West Bank in more than two years. It joins a number of exception incidents in the past month: the murder of IDF soldier Tomer Hazan, the death of Givati Brigade soldier Gal Kobi by sniper fire in Hebron, the murder of Seraiah Ofer in the Jordan Valley, the bulldozer attack on an IDF base last week and the attack that injured a 9-year-old girl in the settlement of Psagot.

A senior officer from the IDF Central Command, who was involved in the incident that ended in A’atzi’s death, admits that there has been a change.

He, like his counterparts throughout the West Bank, doesn’t see a significant correlation among the various incidents, but nevertheless sees them as part of a common pattern. Local, isolated attacks, undertaken primarily by individuals not associated with any organization, have been effective in the past. Attacks like these have all the “success” of terrorism, they get widespread media attention and encourage others to act against Israeli security forces and civilians. Terrorists understand that independent activity, instead of action as part of a group, makes it more difficult for the Shin Bet to identify the responsible party and arrest them before they carry out their plan.

In the meantime, these actions are not inspiring the masses or turning the streets into battlegrounds, as they were during the early stages of both intifadas, but they are enough to increase motivation amongst other young Palestinians. Also, Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have weakened, both in the cities, but primarily in the refugee camps, where many have begun to carry weapons in the open, in violation of Palestinian security protocols.

The IDF continues to use the methods at its disposal to deal with the resurgence in the area. There has not yet been any decision on calling in reinforcements, or any kind of collective punishment, renewing of curfews or local closings. The number of soldiers in the West Bank is much smaller than it was during the intifadas, with only 16 battalions currently in the area (as opposed to 23, three or four years ago), and currently, IDF command is considering further cutbacks next year.

In 2014, the number of reserve units on operational duty will be reduced to a minimum, forcing the regular units to spend longer periods of time in the West Bank.

The unrest in the area is also reflected in the Israeli attempts to step up its preemptive actions, exemplified by the operation against A’atzi. Israeli concerns are also connected, in a roundabout way, to the ongoing negotiations with the PA, which continue in a rare, relative silence. If A’atzi, or someone like him, were to succeed in carrying out a multi-casualty attack, it could put an abrupt end to the negotiations and create tension between Jerusalem and Washington. There is also concern about prisoner releases. Next week, 29 Palestinian prisoners will be released, the second of four rounds of release that will see 104 total prisoners go free. Any other terrorist attack will reignite the internal government arguments over the release of prisoners.

On Saturday, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip called for a new intifada in the West Bank. His calls were not taken seriously by Israel or in the West Bank. Haniyeh’s call seems like an attempt by Hamas, given the tight Israeli and Egyptian grip on the Gaza Strip, to hitch a ride on the momentum created by recent events in the West Bank to inspire more attacks that will disrupt the activities of its rival, the PA.

If a broader movement of unrest does happen, it won’t be started by Hamas in Gaza. The primary danger is the increasing tension on the Temple Mount, where Palestinians (and Jordanians) are increasingly criticizing what they see as efforts from the Israeli right wing to disrupt the status quo. The increasing frequency of visits by rabbis and Jewish worshippers to the site, as well as the activities of various groups, fuel concern among the Palestinians.

An isolated incident on the Temple Mount, similar to what transpired after Ariel Sharon’s visit in September 2000, could make the situation worse and spread the current tension to other areas, which would be much worse than what we’ve seen of late.

Local, isolated attacks, undertaken primarily by individuals not associated with any organization, have been effective in the past. Attacks like these have all the ‘success’ of terrorism, they get widespread media attention and encourage others to act against Israeli security forces and civilians. Terrorists understand that independent activity, instead of action as part of a group, makes it more difficult for the Shin Bet to identify the responsible party and arrest them before they carry out their plan.

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