x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

A Palestinian return to a just Intifada

A "third intifada" could serve Palestinians well, provided that it remains peaceful and emphasises right and wrong, rather than bloodshed.

Stones have always served Palestinians better than rifles and bombs. The First Intifada beginning in 1987 was the first demonstration of mass resistance. Boycotts and strikes were employed, and clashes on the ground were marked by stone-throwing Palestinian youth. Al Aqsa Intifada, from 2000 to 2005, is on the other hand remembered for a spiral of suicide bombings and pitched battles with the Israeli military.

Both uprisings were in response to an unjust occupation. But the first resulted in heightened international pressure on Israel and new prospects for a fair negotiated solution; the Second Intifada left 5,500 Palestinians dead and ended as a pretext for Israel to strengthen its stranglehold and build the separation barrier.

At the weekend, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that analysts have warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank could trigger another popular Palestinian movement. It is an old story. There have been signs of a peaceful revival of resistance for several years, although the most powerful expressions to date were the mass demonstrations in March 2011 spanning the West Bank and Gaza, which were actually directed against Palestinian leaders and demanded an end to the Fatah-Hamas split.

Mr Netanyahu's advisers warned specifically against a violent backlash to Israeli policy. To be sure, the present Israeli administration would be far more comfortable dealing with an armed confrontation on the streets of Gaza or the West Bank than with peaceful protests and a moral challenge to its policy in the full view of world opinion.

Israeli efforts to perpetuate the stalemate and maintain a quiescent population under occupation have to be resisted. Consider the events of last week. On Wednesday, Mr Netanyahu's government upheld a court order evicting settlers from the Ulpana neighbourhood of the West Bank, but then announced construction of 850 apartments in another settlement, Beit El. Very quickly, the extent of illegal settlements will make a negotiated solution nearly impossible.

Mr Netanyahu's advisers also warned against the "price tag" attacks - in which militant settlers have attacked Palestinians in revenge for the rare evictions from illegal settlements. Those attacks have included a series of mosque arsons. Palestinians will be hard tested to not respond with violence in kind. The success of their resistance depends on it.