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Winds of a third intifada

alaqsaFor almost a year now, Israeli politicians accused President Mahmoud Abbas, repeatedly, of climbing a high tree by refusing to negotiate with Israel before Benjamin Netenyahu’s Government announces a full freeze of all settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In recent days, Abbas found his way down the tree by climbing the Arab League’s ladder announcing his acceptance to resume peace talks with Israel. Just before Abbas’ feet and the negotiations hit the ground, he had to climb back up the tree to higher latitude and retreat from his decision to resume the proximity talks. Pressured by the U.S., The Arab League gave Netenyahu four months to prove that he is willing to move forward with the peace process; however, Netenyahu and his government killed this initiative in its crib.

The prevailing sentiment in Israeli media towards Netenyahu’s current foreign policy after the latest political blunder(announcing new settlements), reflects a great deal of dissatisfaction. The performance and attitude of Israel’s foreign policy is scrutinized by the international community even by Israelis themselves. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was supposed to be Israel’s first diplomat but he quickly became his country’s number one diplo-mess. His critics accuse him of running the Israeli Foreign Ministry as if he was still “a bodyguard at a nightclub.”In recent days, some Israeli newspapers argued that the current Israeli government is being run by reckless thugs who continue to undermine Israel’s security and alliances around the world. The announcement of building 1600 new housing units expanding Israeli settlements during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is one in a series of Israeli gaffes in the last few months. The crisis with the Turks after insulting Turkey’s Ambassador in Israel, The Mossad’s use of European fake passports in the assassination of Hamas’ military official Mamoud Al Mabhooh in Dubai contributed to damaging Israel’s image around the world. Outrage in the Muslim street fueled by Israel’s plan to annex two Islamic holy sites located in the West Bank to the so-called heritage list and the show of disrespect towards Biden and the U.S.’ role in the area function as an excellent PR opportunity for the Palestinians.
Combined with their success in rebuilding the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) economic and civil institutions in the last three years, the PA proved its ability to control the security situation in the West Bank in compliance with the Road Map for Peace and the Quartet’s demands. After these achievements, the PA sent the message to the US and the international community that they (the PA) can’t maintain the security achievements anymore. The PA insinuated that if the Peace Process does not move forward soon, Hamas will pick it up from there and gain control over the West Bank.
The Europeans applied some pressure on Israel through talk about a Spanish-French proposal to recognize a Palestinian State, keeping the details of their vision vague enough to allow the Israelis an edge to the process. On the other hand, the Obama administration, which appears to be turned-off by the Israeli government’s policies, has yet to convert its dissatisfaction with Netenyahu’s government into action. The Obama Administration’s main priority continues to be Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran in addition to overwhelming domestic crises, such as the economy and health care. Therefore the peace process ranks low in Obama’s list of priorities.
Some argue that the US will address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict before any military action is taken against Iran. However, most analysts believe that until Obama ends the war in Iraq and withdraws US troops from there, Israel will not be allowed to carry a military strike on Iran. It is true that such a withdrawal is expected to take place this summer but the ramifications and aftermath of the Iraqi elections may challenge the process.
Considering the actions of the current Israeli government and all other dynamic factors affecting the Palestinian-Israeli Peace Process, one cannot be optimistic about the peace process in the near future. While the urgency of ending the Israeli occupation is a Palestinian priority, wasting time and prolonging the path to a peace deal seems to be the best strategy for the rest of the parties involved. Observers suggest that any progress in the Palestinian-Israeli peace track will only weaken Netenyahu’s coalition, but will definitely empower the PA and the Obama administration. Although peace with the Arabs is assumingly a strategic Israeli advantage, it is not necessarily in Nentenyahu government’s best interest to strike a peace deal, thus making it hard to imagine Israel investing in this path in the near future.
Meanwhile, a rose scenario of progress on the Palestinian-Israeli peace track will involve the weakening of Hamas, better chances of improvements in peace talks between Israel and Syria leading to a wider support for the Obama administration agendas’ in Iraq and Iran. Realistically, media reports from Palestine have been suggesting that the political scene in the West Bank and Jerusalem is ripe for a third Intifada. An uprising that is organized, peaceful and enjoys the support of both; local and international communities.
The continued unbearable pressure by the U.S. and Israel on the PA to maintain security, without any political progress, will ultimately make the PA loose legitimacy and support from the Palestinian street. This will also make a third Intifada the only option and best alternative to a negotiated agreement for Palestinians. Many Palestinians argue that even if a third Intifada means the end of the PA, it will hopefully end Palestinians internal rifts.

By Osama AbuKatta