Analysis: Abbas caught between hammer and anvil
Some Palestinians believe the PA is interested in escalating tensions with Israel for various reasons.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas at PLO meeting in West Bank, January 29, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokma
Does the current wave of violence in east Jerusalem and the West Bank serve the
Palestinian Authority’s interests? Or do the widespread protests, which are
being described by some Palestinians as a “mini-intifada,” undermine its status?
Some Palestinians believe that the PA leadership is interested in escalating
tensions with Israel for various reasons.
The PA leadership, they say,
wants to put the Palestinian issue back at the top of the international
community’s list of priorities. As such, scenes of daily clashes between
Palestinian protesters and IDF soldiers and settlers would shift the world’s
attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The feeling in the PA
leadership is that the Americans and Europeans have long lost interest in the
Palestinian issue, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring and the Iranian
The PA leadership does not like the fact that the whole
world seems to be preoccupied with current events in Syria and other Arab
countries, as well as talk about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
some PA officials have been encouraging the daily protests in the West Bank and
east Jerusalem, arguing that this is the only way to win back the world’s
These officials believe that a mini-intifada could also serve
the Palestinians’ interests ahead of US President Barack Obama’s planned visit
to the region next month.
They are hoping that the violence would prompt
Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to accept at least some of the PA leadership’s demands, first and foremost a full
freeze of settlement construction and the release of a significant number of
Palestinians from Israeli prisons.
The officials who are in favor of a
mini-intifada are joined by many disgruntled Fatah leaders and members who would
like to see an allout confrontation with Israel, mainly because of their
dissatisfaction with the way Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and
the PA leadership are handling matters.
Many in Fatah see the violence as
a means to undermine Abbas and the old-guard leadership in
That’s precisely why Abbas and most of his top aides are
opposed to a third intifada. Instead, they are talking about the need for a
nonviolent “popular resistance” – one that would put heavy pressure on Israel
and win the sympathy of the international community.
Abbas’s main concern
is that an all-out confrontation with Israel, where Palestinians resort once
again to suicide bombings and other terror attacks, would cause more damage to
the Palestinian issue.
Moreover, Abbas is also worried that a serious
deterioration would undermine his authority and provide Israel with an excuse to
step up its punitive measures against his authority in particular, and the
Palestinians in general.
The latest upsurge in violence seems to have
placed Abbas between the Israeli hammer and the Palestinian anvil. On the one
hand, he seems to be afraid of Israel’s harsh response. On the other, there is
not much that he could do to stop Palestinians from taking to the streets to
voice solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.