In my last column I discussed the differences between the first two Palestinian “intifadas” against Israel (in 1987 and 2000), in an attempt to define and frame the current wave of mainly “lone-wolf” terrorist attacks being perpetrated by relatively young educated Palestinians, using primarily knives and scissors as weapons.
I raised three questions:
- Is this really the Third Intifada, or just a long delayed continuation of the second one?
- Is it even, by definition, an “intifada”?
- If it is the Third Intifada, doesn’t the fact that it’s so very different from the first two (at the moment) in the absence of central leadership and large numbers of trained and armed fighters, make it more difficult to end — let alone contain?
Here are my answers:
Many historians will probably label this the “Third Intifada.” But the label doesn’t really matter. In my opinion, every armed conflict Israel has fought since Nov. 29, 1947 — whether against conventional armies, well-organized, trained and armed Palestinian militias or Internet-incited lone-wolf terrorists with knives and scissors — is simply a continuation of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, which ended in a temporary “cease fire,” and will continue to flare up in various forms until Israel has signed peace treaties with all the Arab countries in the Middle East … including Palestine.
The armistice agreements were intended to serve only as interim agreements until replaced by permanent peace treaties. However, no peace treaties were actually signed until decades later, and to date only with Egypt and Jordan.
No. At least not yet. According to Merriam-Webster, “intifada” is an “uprising, rebellion; specifically: an armed uprising of Palestinians against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” So far there have been far less demonstrations, mass-casualty violence (shootings, kidnappings, car and suicide vest bombings), or participation of organized, trained and armed forces than in the first two.
The only noticeable organizational involvement so far is the continuous incitement on official Palestinian Authority and Hamas media that includes glorified details of the recent “martyrs” as well as promises of big financial and personal rewards to those who join them.
Difficult, yes … but not impossible. The tactics Israel used in the previous intifadas won’t work here. With no identifiable leader, no organization to pin the lone-wolf attacks on, relatively few victims and even fewer surviving young (and highly sympathetic) terrorists — targeted assassinations are out of the question.
Destroying family homes is also a bad option because, together with multi-angle viral pictures of dead or injured terrorists, made-up Internet stories and Photoshopped pictures of “Israeli soldiers” allegedly roughing up family members, it just creates more hatred and a desire to “avenge Palestinian honor,” as one 14-year-old justified attempting a knife attack after watching the Palestinian evening news on TV.
The only way, according to many Israeli analysts today, to at least try to stem the current “Internet intifada” is for Israel to consider doing what Arik Sharon was planning before his fatal stroke … a unilateral partial withdrawal from most of the West Bank, with Israel remaining firmly in control of all “consensus” Israeli settlement blocs (including the Jordan Valley), security assets (including airspace, strategic locations and airwave capabilities), international crossing points (together with Jordan), etc.
We all know what the end result will look like — it’s the same deal offered by Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzippi Livne, and more recently Bibi Netanyahu, to both Arafat and Abu Mazen. It’s acceptable to most Israelis (as long as “Palestine” is fully demilitarized).
And this should be started sooner rather than later. ISIS’ footprint is growing in the West Bank and Gaza. These attacks could get more deadly very quickly.
Also, with the leadership vacuum created in the Middle East by a clear weakening of U.S. resolve, involvement and credibility, Russia and Iran have become the “go-to” default super-powers in the region.
Just look north to Syria, and imagine how a real Israeli-Palestinian conflict could hypothetically worsen, when regional and international players start getting involved.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: email@example.com
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DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.