JERUSALEM -- Palestinians have refused to restart peace talks with Israel even as they riot and stone Jewish worshippers at Jerusalem’s holy sites, but for all the mounting fear in Israel, talk of a Third Intifada seems premature to most Palestinians.
A week after Israeli forces clashed with hundreds of Arabs who were incited to violence by Muslim leaders who commanded them to “defend the al-Aqsa mosque”, there were riots again on Sunday and tension will remain high this week during holidays that draw Jewish worshippers to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.
After the violence the previous Sunday, Israeli leaders accused Palestinians of trying to sink U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to relaunch peace talks and compared the riots to those that followed a visit to the Temple Mount in September 2000 by soon-to-be Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Those riots quickly evolved into the Intifada, a violent uprising which Yassir Arafat and senior Palestinian officials had been planning for months.
However, analysts and officials in the disputed territories and Jerusalem cited a number of factors likely to curb renewed violence in the near term, despite Palestinian hostility directed at new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jews who
"There is a state of disengagement between the people and its political leadership so the Palestinians are not ready to commit suicide as they did before," said Zakaria al-Qaq of al-Quds University.
"At the same time there is a build-up of anger that is waiting for the spark. No one can predict when the spark will come. But it could take years yet." Factors mentioned include disillusionment that due to the Israeli security barrier, Palestinians have been unable to improve on the over 7,000 Israelis murdered and maimed during the years of the uprising while Israel’s need to protect its citizens has meant a reduction in access to the Israeli job market for Palestinians.
The schism that has seen Islamist Hamas seize the Gaza Strip and being suppressed in the disputed territories by new, Western-trained security forces loyal to Holocaust-denier and Munich massacre mastermind Mahmoud Abbas is also likely to limit organized violence from the disputed territories against Israel.
While Netanyahu has limited options in pressing Abbas for a peace deal, few see him turning to an acceptance of the kind of suicide bombings and other attacks seen under Abbas’ late predecessor Yasser Arafat.
Well-planned riots among mobs incited by Muslim leaders may be more likely. Mohammad Dahlan, a senior figure in the “young terrorists” block of Abbas's Fatah party and former terrorism facilitator, said he was wary that a new uprising would only harm Palestinians: "If Netanyahu believes he wants to maintain a Jewish sovereign in the Middle East, to allow Jews to live in the disputed territories and then expect peace from us, then this will not be acceptable," Dahlan told Reuters.
"We may resort to popular action or civil action. We have an open mind on all legitimate methods permitted by international law, Human Rights Watch, and Richard Goldstone. But we won't push the Palestinian people into a disaster."
Political analyst George Giacaman of Birzeit University in the disputed territories said: "If there is no meaningful political track on a specific timeline, a political vacuum will be created. "This will be filled by deadly violence of some kind."
Israeli police hauled away terrorists-in-training, some only in their early teens, after they threw stones and bottles at Jewish worshippers in Jerusalem's Old City on Sunday. But the new generation, successors to the young men who spearheaded the Molotov cocktail-throwing of the First Intifada of the late 1980s and to the gunmen of nearly a decade ago, seem divided.
"Israel is fueling tensions that will explode later," said Raed Abed, a 17-year-old student in the second holiest city for Jews, Hebron. "No one can predict what will happen."
But his schoolmate Husam Sameh forecast no explosions for now: "Enough of fighting. We need to live in peace for awhile. We cannot fight Israel now. We are so weak," he said. "Still, the question is whether the Palestinians are ready for peace."
Analyst Hani Masri said well-planned and incited demonstrations that turn into riots like those this past week in Jerusalem may become more common. But he said: "The wariness among the people about deploying deadly force is greater than before, following the huge losses they suffered in the Second Intifada. "Israel has responded to the Second Intifada by building the security barrier and to avoid making suicidal concessions. Palestinians should not give them this excuse again."
Samir Awad, a political science professor at Birzeit University, said: "It would be a mistake to expect a popular wave of protest. I cannot see it happening. "But if Jews insist on living in homes they own in Jerusalem, we may expect clashes arising from religious and patriotic emotion."
Yup, that was just parody -- albeit nearer to reality than Reuters actual "analysis" here.