The Third Intifada Is Inevitable

24palestineSUB-popupNathan Thrall in The New York Times's Sunday Review:

EARLIER this month, at a private meeting with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his security advisers, a group of Middle East experts and former intelligence officers warned that a third Palestinian intifada was imminent. The immediate catalyst, they said, could be another mosque vandalized by Jewish settlers, like the one burned on Tuesday, or the construction of new settlement housing. Whatever the fuse, the underlying source of ferment in the West Bank is a consensus that the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has reached a dead end.

Mr. Abbas’s political strategy was premised on the notion that security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government would make Israel feel safer and remove its primary justification for continuing to occupy the West Bank, thereby clearing the way for a Palestinian state. Ironically, owing to the success of his efforts, many Israelis have had the luxury of forgetting that there is an occupation at all.

Thanks to the American- and European-financed peace that Mr. Abbas’s government has been keeping in the West Bank, Israelis have come to believe they can eat their cake and have it, too. A majority of citizens polled earlier this year said their state could remain Jewish and democratic without relinquishing any of the West Bank. Years of peace and quiet in Tel Aviv allowed hundreds of thousands of Israelis to take to the streets last summer to protest the high price of cottage cheese, rent and day care without uttering a word about Palestinians in the West Bank. The issue has ceased to be one of Israel’s primary security concerns. Mr. Netanyahu would have to be either politically suicidal or exceptionally forward-thinking to abandon a status quo with which a vast majority appears satisfied.

By contrast, Palestinians today see their leadership banging its head against a wall, hoping against reason that a bit more good behavior will bring about an independent state. As a result, longstanding debates over how to achieve national liberation — by comforting Israel or confronting it — have now been resolved. Palestinians of all political stripes are no longer arguing about whether to make Israel’s occupation more costly, but how.

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