Is this 3rd Intifada?

The current ongoing round of Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis, now in its fifth month, has been called various names.
Worldwide media has been using the terms: “Social Media Intifada,” “Knife and Stone Uprising,” “Youth Rebellion” (because most of the terrorists are under the age of 20), etc.
Last October, in a news conference in Spain, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called it: “Random Acts of Violence.”
Palestinian President Abu Mazen calls it “a Knife Intifada” while claiming that the murder of Jews is really “peaceful. …”
But after last week’s brutal attack in Jerusalem, where Hadar Cohen, a brave 19-year-old, newly recruited border patrol officer gave her life to prevent what would have been a major, multi-casualty attack by three heavily armed Palestinians from the West Bank, there is growing consensus in Israel that we should call it what it is — the Third Intifada — despite the serious political and security consequences that this highly charged definition entails.
But this begs three important questions:

  • Is this really the Third Intifada, or just a long-delayed continuation of the Second (which never actually ended but continued on low flames after Arafat’s death)?
  • Is it even, by definition, an “Intifada?”
  • And 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, mean that it may be far more difficult to end — let alone contain?

To answer these questions we first have to go back and understand what happened in 1987 and 2000:
The First Intifada, or “popular uprising” (1987-1993), was not planned, well-organized or controlled … at least not in the beginning. It started in Gaza when an Israeli military truck accidentally collided with a civilian car, killing four Palestinians.
Unrest, frustration with Palestinian and Arab leadership, together with incitement against Israel, was already brewing in the territories Israel had captured 20 years earlier. All it took was this accident to ignite a protest movement that caught on like wildfire and spread through Gaza and the West Bank.
The initially unorganized protests involved a twofold local strategy of resistance and civil disobedience including: general strikes, blocking main roads both in Israel and the territories, and widespread, deadly, rock and Molotov cocktail attacks against IDF and civilian targets.
It took a while for the various PLO factions to organize, arm and take control of the protesters.
Over the next six years an estimated 2,000 Palestinians were killed by the IDF (most of them armed insurgents), while 100 Israeli civilians and 60 soldiers died; 1,400 Israeli civilians and 1,700 soldiers were injured.
The Second Intifada (aka the “Al-Aqsa” Intifada) started in September 2000. Palestinian and world news outlets claimed that it was triggered by a much-publicized visit to the Temple Mount area by Arik Sharon on Sept. 28.
However, Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority communications minister, admitted that the violence had been planned in July, far in advance of Sharon’s “provocation,” when Arafat returned from Camp David, having rejected the American proposals for a deal with Israel.
Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas said that Arafat instructed his organization to launch terror attacks against Israel after the failure of peace negotiations.
On Sept. 29, the Voice of Palestine, the PA’s official radio station, called “to all Palestinians to come and defend the Al-Aqsa mosque.” The PA closed its schools and transported Palestinian students to the Temple Mount to participate in the organized riots. That day, following Friday prayers, large riots broke out around the Old City of Jerusalem.
After Palestinians on the Temple Mount threw rocks over the Western Wall at Jewish worshippers, Israeli police fired back with tear gas and rubber bullets. When the chief of Jerusalem’s police force was knocked unconscious by a rock, they switched to live ammunition, killing four Palestinians.
As many as 200 Palestinians and police were injured. Another three rock-throwers were killed in the Old City and on the Mount of Olives. By the end of the day, seven Palestinians had been killed and 300 had been wounded. Seventy Israeli policemen were injured and the Second Intifada had started.
Unlike the First Intifada, the Second was prepared, organized, well-armed and well-commanded, with the deployment of highly trained terrorist units like Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade from Arafat’s Fatah faction, and Izzadin al-Kassam Brigades from Hamas. It also saw the use of many religiously inspired suicide bombers, wearing explosive vests or driving booby-trapped cars that blew up on Israeli streets, in restaurants, cafes, buses, social and family events, etc.
The IDF, Police and Shin-Bet fought back by land, sea and air. The fighting lasted five years. The exact date of the end of the Second Intifada is disputed, though most agree on Feb. 8, 2005.
Casualty totals were high:

  • Israelis: 1,053 killed (334 IDF soldiers)
  • Palestinians: 4,789 killed (most of them combatants)
  • Foreigners: 55 killed

In my next column, I’ll answer the questions posed above, as well as look at:
How the recent changes in the Middle East, specifically the unchecked spread of ISIS and the unfortunate empowerment of the Iran’s fanatic hardliners, could directly influence the length, casualty levels and consequences of the “Third Intifada” (hint: ISIS is already recruiting and operating in Gaza and the West Bank).
Israel’s medium- and long-term strategy to deal with it.
I agree with most analysts who argue that unless something dramatic is done, this could become the longest and most pivotal conflict in Israel’s 68 years.
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:
Upcoming briefings and SWJC events are listed at:
DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.

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