Palestinians wave flags during a protest (R) 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
What will happen on September 21? Probably not that much. It will be the day
after the Palestinian Authority unilaterally declares statehood at the United
Nations General Assembly, but contrary to what one might be led to believe by
the near-hysteric reactions in Jerusalem, the defense establishment does not
believe that the world will come to an end. Far from it.
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demonstrations will likely not erupt immediately. While everyone is talking
about this period called “September,” the period will likely last through
October and November and even longer depending on political
While demonstrations will likely erupt throughout the the
West Bank, the PA has made a point in recent weeks to calm Israeli fears and
assure the IDF and the political echelon that it will prevent them from turning
violent. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has spoken in recent weeks with Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad in an effort to
coordinate what will happen.
This is because an outbreak of violence,
along the lines of the second intifada, would play right into Israel’s hands and
give the government the legitimacy to use force to strike back at the PA and
destroy everything the Abbas- Fayad duo has built in recent years.
will however be in the PA’s interest to continually remind the world that
despite the recognition that it received at the UN, it is still living under
occupation and that the IDF is still patrolling through its cities.
can be achieved by holding peaceful protests throughout the West Bank – the
likes of which have been seen in recent years at Bil’in and Ni’lin against the
That is why some senior defense officials have
expressed more concern with a potential boycott that could be imposed on Israel
following the PA’s declaration of statehood even if it is not legally binding.
The first market that would likely be affected is the defense market that has
been the pride of the political establishment in recent years as Israel
consistently ranked in the top four countries worldwide in defense
Militarily, the challenge mostly will be to keep a lid on things
and to let the Palestinians demonstrate but without letting the situation get
out of control. This is due to an understanding that dead and wounded
Palestinian demonstrators will strengthen the PA’s cause and and undermine
For this reason, Israel is investing a tremendous
amount of resources in mental preparations for soldiers and policemen who will
be on the frontlines when the demonstrations erupt. They will need to know how
to restrain themselves since a small tactical mistake on the ground could end up
having major diplomatic repercussions for Israel around the world.
IDF’s real concern is actually with the northern border and with the
possibility, as reported earlier this month in The Jerusalem Post
, that Syrian soldiers will feel the need to
“protect” their people and will open fire on IDF troops trying to stop the
protesters from crossing into Israel like over 100 did on Nakba Day in
There are major unknowns here. What happens, for example, if
a single Syrian soldier opens fire? What happens if a local Syrian commander
deploys tanks along the border and decides to shoot a shell into Israel? Does
Israel respond forcefully at the risk of going to war or does it demonstrate
restraint at the risk of appearing weak?
Beleaguered Syrian President Bashar
Assad could actually be interested in a wider conflict with Israel, one that
would shift the focus away from the slaughtering of his own people and align the
entire country against a common enemy. Israel will need to make sure not to fall
into that trap.