In the best case, rioting in the W. Bank could gain the attention of the US and Europe, but it could also deteriorate into a third intifada.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas at PLO meeting in West Bank, January 29, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokma
The unfortunate death of Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian arrested last week for
throwing rocks at Israeli cars, has triggered violence in flashpoints around the
An autopsy performed by the Health Ministry found that Jaradat
died on Saturday of heart failure and that signs of violence on his body,
including broken ribs, were from resuscitation attempts.
Palestinian Authority, in an apparent attempt to escalate tensions, declared
that Jaradat had been tortured to death at Megiddo Prison, where he was being
Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a Fatah-linked terrorist group, vowed to
avenge Jaradat’s death, which has become another source of rage for Palestinians
already demonstrating in solidarity with four hunger-striking security prisoners
and in particular against Israel’s decision to rearrest two terrorists who had
been released in the October 2011 Gilad Schalit prisoner swap. Kadoura Fares, a
former PA minister and the head of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, warned of a
The present unrest coincides with the 19th anniversary of
Baruch Goldstein’s despicable murder of 29 Muslim worshipers and wounding of 125
more on Purim day 1994 during a mosque prayer at the Cave of the Patriarchs in
Hebron. Nearly every Purim since has been marred by Palestinian terrorist
attacks, demonstrations and unrest. The stage is set for an explosive
And PA President Mahmoud Abbas might be interested in
escalating violence ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to the region.
Scenes of rioting in Palestinian towns across the West Bank on the eve of the US
president’s arrival might push the Palestinian issue back on the top of the
White House’s agenda for the region. For some time, the bloody civil war in
Syria, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Iran’s push for nuclear
weapons have eclipsed the Palestinian cause.
Abbas has rightly perceived
that the relative calm in the West Bank – thanks in large part to strong
security coordination between Israel and the PA – has made the US, the Europeans
and many Israelis complacent about the need for peace talks.
must realize the danger of fanning the flames of violence. If the riots, which
so far have been mostly restricted to smaller villages around Hebron, does
indeed spread to cities such as Ramallah and Nablus and greater numbers of
Palestinians take to the street, the situation could deteriorate into a third
There are more radical elements within Fatah which would like
to see this happen as a means of usurping Abbas’s power.
Though there is
little Abbas can do to stop the riots, he could rein in the Fatah leaders who
are encouraging escalation.
Meanwhile, our security forces, which have
been tasked with containing the violence and preventing demonstrators from
blocking major roads, must also avoid using extreme force and refrain from
Perhaps the unrest on the West Bank will
temporarily push the Palestinian issue higher up on the foreign policy agendas
of the Americans and the Europeans. But the real obstacles to peace remain
Palestinian leadership remains divided between Hamas in the
Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank.
Neither can claim to represent the
entire Palestinian people. Further weakening the legitimacy of Palestinian
political leadership is the fact that no democratic elections have been held
The elections that were supposed to take place in 2009 have
repeatedly been delayed. Abbas, whose term has expired, has no mandate from his
people to make concessions to Israel and Hamas would never dream of making
Placing the Palestinian issue back on the Western world’s
agenda by instigating violence on the West Bank might change perceptions but
will not change the underlying causes of the stalled peace process.
the best scenario from Abbas’s point of view, limited rioting could get the US
and Europe to renew pressure on Israel. But if he plays his hand wrong and the
unrest deteriorates into a third intifada, Abbas could lose control of the
situation, lose the presidency and ruin any chances for peace for years to come.