1987 … 2000 … 2013?
In March, Barry Rubin asked Will the Palestinians Launch a Third “Intifadah” War on Israel? Professor Rubin surveyed the conditions under which a third intifada might occur.
The fact is that Mahmoud Abbas is in the closing phase of his leadership and there is no clear successor. Complicating the situation is the specter of a generational transition. People can put forward in conversation their preferred person to lead the PA, PLO, and Fatah or speculate as to who it might be. But the truth is that nobody has the least idea who will be the new leader or even who are the most likely candidates.
A leader or faction or elements of the “young guard” might well decide that an intifadah would suit their purposes. It would distance themselves from the “failed” policies of Abbas and the current establishment. By focusing on youth, violence, and the security forces, such a strategy could benefit a takeover bid by “military” officials or by young anti-establishment forces.
There is a difference between those two sectors. The PA “military” tends to dislike Hamas but those who came of political age in the “first intifadah” see things differently. They might view a war as the best way to fuse Fatah-Hamas cooperation with themselves taking a leading role.
In March, Professor Rubin judged that if Fatah joined with Hamas to launch an intifada, that it was unlikely that Mahmoud Abbas would be party to the scheme.
Currently, Khaled Abu Toameh reports on rumors that The Third Intifada Has Begun.:
Both Abbas and Hamas see the two events — the war in the Gaza Strip and the UN vote — as “historic achievements” and military and political victories over Israel.
Emboldened by the “victories,” Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently reached a secret agreement on the need to launch a “popular intifada” against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources in Ramallah revealed.
The two men believe that such an intifada at this stage would further isolate Israel and earn the Palestinians even more sympathy in the international arena, the sources said.
There may not be a renewed intifada, but conditions favorable to one are stronger now than any time in the past five years.
What’s changed since March? For one thing, as Abu Toameh notes are the “victories” of Fatah and Hamas, which probably emboldened both.
Also, among other things, Abbas knows how to read polling data. A recent poll finds that 88% of Palestinians favor an armed struggle against Israel. More specifically:
The poll, conducted earlier this month by the Arab World Research and Development (AWRAD), a Ramallah-based research center, sampled 1,200 Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank. It set out to examine political opinions among Palestinians following Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza and Mahmoud Abbas’s successful UN nonmember statehood bid.
While both events are overwhelmingly viewed as positive by Palestinians, adding popularity to both Palestinian factions, 42% of West Bank respondents said they preferred the approach of Hamas to that of Fatah, as opposed to only 28% who preferred Fatah’s approach.
Interestingly, more Gazans, 40%, said they preferred Fatah’s approach to that of Hamas, which rules over them. Thirty-seven percent of Gazans said Hamas’s approach was better.
Though, as Professor Rubin points out, an intifada that directly threatens Israel will lead to the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure when Israel responds, it appears that both Fatah and Hamas think that the potential political gains internationally and locally are worth the price.
Part of the reason for this (misplaced) confidence is the way the international community treated the Palestinian bid for statehood in the UN and the results of Pillar of Defense.
For example the New York Times reported Hamas Chief Revives Talk of Reuniting With P.L.O.:
Hamas is flush over what it is billing as a victory for its armed resistance against Israel, after fighting in Gaza last week ended with a cease-fire and promises to remove some Israeli restrictions that have devastated the coastal strip’s economy. Mr. Meshal’s remarks suggested that he believed Hamas now held more cards to influence the P.L.O., and the wider Arab world, to take a tougher stance in dealings with Israel.
A day later the paper reported, U.N. Assembly, in Blow to U.S., Elevates Status of Palestine:
More than 130 countries voted on Thursday to upgrade Palestine to a nonmember observer state of the United Nations, a triumph for Palestinian diplomacy and a sharp rebuke to the United States and Israel.
Whether a war that eliminated much of Hamas’s offensive capabilities or a vote in an anti-Israel forum ought to be considered a victory is debatable. But these were perceptions of the Palestinians nurtured by much of the world.
In the meantime as Fatah reaches out to Hamas it suffers no opprobrium for rejecting the premise of the peace process. (The New York Times, in its editorials, advocates cooperation between the two as being necessary for peace!)
According to a Palestinian source, the UN’s upgrade of the Palestinian Authority’s status has prompted the change: “The reality after November 29 is not the same as before. After (the vote) any Israeli soldier inside the 1967 lines is a conqueror on occupied land.”
While the Palestinian Authority abrogates material aspects of its agreements with Israel, the world, instead, focuses on E1, which was always envisioned to remain part of Israel. Is it any wonder that Fatah and Hamas think they can get away with fomenting another war against Israel?
(h/t to Daled Amos for the idea)