Palestinians keep protests within bounds

Hamas rally  photo: Reuters

Despite some fiery rhetoric, Palestinian demonstrations against Trump's declaration on Jerusalem have been nowhere near the scale of the two intifadas.

Despite the fiery words from Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh describing the events of the past few days as an “intifada”, what has been happening on the ground does not remotely recall even what happened exactly 30 years ago, when the first intifada broke out. What is happening now is also not reminiscent of the early days of the Al-Aqsa intifada, immediately after the visit of Ariel Sharon on the Temple Mount in September 2000.

At most, it can be called an “intifada-lite”, and even that would be an exaggeration. All in all, it has involved a few thousand people on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. The IDF claims that about 3,000 people participated in demonstrations and confrontations on the West Bank. Even if we assume that that number is lower than what really took place on the ground, and even if we double the number, it still doesn’t reach the size of an average demonstration in the days of the first intifada. Unlike in December 1987 and October 2000, these events are also not the result of a spontaneous, unplanned popular outburst. The events of the past two days are the fruit of an almost unprecedented propaganda effort by the Palestinian Authority’s standards, certainly since the death of Yasser Arafat. Countless calls by Fatah and Hamas succeeded in bringing a very small proportion of the residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip out of their houses.

But unlike in the past, the problem is not necessarily with demonstrations or violent confrontations. The great danger continues to be a terrorist attack of one kind or another on the West Bank and deterioration into a dangerous conflict in the Gaza Strip. It’s true that Hamas does not want conflict in Gaza, whereas it is doing all it can to bring about escalation on the West Bank. Hamas still seeks to prevent an all-out war with Israel, although its efforts in the past few days have been noticeably less than previously, and it seems that someone in the Hamas leadership loosened the reins a little on the rogue organizations, letting them start firing rockets at Israel.

This brings closer a wider confrontation that Israeli too does not want. Haniyeh and Hamas boss in Gaza Yahya Sinwar understand this, and understand even more what the price of such a war could be, and yet it still seems that the organization is not acting forcefully enough to halt escalation along the border. The fact that it allowed thousands of Palestinians to approach the border fence knowing that this would result in people being killed and wounded shows how much it is prepared to play with fire.

And what of the West Bank? Unless there are surprises, the protest there will fade away. It is to be hoped that an incident like that of the killing of Muhammad Al-Dura, which in 2000 inflamed the masses and led to escalation of the conflict, will not be repeated. It will be recalled that Al-Dura was a twelve-year old Palestinian boy from Khan Yunis who was shot and killed at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000. To this day, the two sides accuse each other of responsibility for his death. The pictures of the incident by a Palestinian photographer on behalf of France 2 became a symbol of the Palestinian cause and helped rally the Palestinian masses behind the intifada. Without a similar symbol, Palestinians on the West Bank are unlikely to keep taking to the streets and abandoning their daily routines, given that the Palestinian Authority leadership is still being careful not to let things get out of hand.

The Palestinian Authority has stated that it will no longer negotiate with the US administration, but as far as Israel is concerned, it has been very cautious, and there has been no message to activists on the ground that a point of no return has been reached and to "open the gates of hell", as the various organizations have been threatening.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 10, 2017

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

Hamas rally  photo: Reuters
Hamas rally photo: Reuters
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