How the Pales­tini­ans stoked, then stopped, a new in­tifada

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News -

lent out­break, but were care­ful not to cause too many ca­su­al­ties, in the clear knowl­edge that a shahid’s blood could stoke an un­quench­able fire.

But more than any­one else, the peace that con­tin­ued to reign through­out most of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip can be at­trib­uted to PA Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas and Ha­mas Prime Min­is­ter Is­mail Haniyeh.

The two men may be the most bit­ter of ri­vals, in­ca­pable, it seems, of reach­ing an agree­ment on a sched­ule for elec­tions, but last week they were united by a joint in­ter­est. Both of them gave clear or­ders to their un­der­lings that all the demon­stra­tions against the “Zion­ist threat” to Al Aqsa were not to get out of hand or be al­lowed any­where near the po­si­tions of the Is­raeli army.

Un­like Mr Ab­bas’s pre­de­ces­sor, Yas­sir Arafat, who could never be re­lied upon not to ride a pop­ulist wave, both Pales­tinian leaders ex­hib­ited a rare sense of cau­tion and self-preser­va­tion. Both of them made fiery speeches promis­ing to fight for Jerusalem, but that was it.

Pres­i­dent Ab­bas knows that a fresh round of war­fare would wipe out the only tan­gi­ble gain he has achieved in al­most five years of pres­i­dency, the im­prove­ment in the se­cu­rity and fi­nan­cial war­fare of Pales­tinian cit­i­zens in the West Bank.

A new in­tifada would mean the re­turn of the road­blocks, the cur­few, the trade re­stric­tions, and it would put the five bat­tal­ions of Pales­tinian sol­diers, trained by the United States Army, in an un­ten­able po­si­tion. Ei­ther stay by the side­lines dur­ing a na­tional con­flict or lose all Amer­i­can sup­port.

In any case, Mr Ab­bas has no time right now for a vi­o­lent up­ris­ing he can­not con­trol. He is too busy try­ing to ex­tri­cate him­self from the po­lit­i­cal scan­dal caused by his de­ci­sion not to press for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Is­rael fol­low­ing the Gold­stone re­port. This week, he re­versed his po­si­tion and is now de­mand­ing the UN in­ves­ti­gate it, as well as the Jerusalem ri­ots.

Ha­mas and Mr Haniyeh have achieved only poverty and iso­la­tion dur­ing their three years of rule in Gaza, but af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead nine months ago, they know full well that their only chance to open the bor­der-cross­ings and be­gin re­build­ing is a pris­oner deal fol­lowed by a truce with Is­rael.

If they fail that, they will have no more to of­fer Gazans than or­gan­i­sa­tions like Is­lamic Ji­had and al Qaida. Both leaders sent mes­sages as­sur­ing Is­rael they were not seek­ing es­ca­la­tion and made do with rhetoric.

Peace be­tween Is­rael and Pales­tini­ans and be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Pales­tini­ans is still a long way off by any yard­stick. But at least for the time be­ing, full-scale blood­shed is not an op­tion for any of the main play­ers. An­shel Pf­ef­fer is the JC’s spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent in Is­rael

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