Why is Israel declaring the start of the Third Intifada?

on 24 Comments
Palestinian Throw Rocks at undercover Israeli troops attempting to arrest a suspect in the Village of Tamoun(Flickr)

Two days ago, an Israeli army commander announced a Palestinian intifada, or uprising: 

“We’re no longer on the verge of a third intifada – it’s already here. We anticipate many more (clashes) from now on,” [Yaniv Alaluf] said.

Commander Alaluf’s pronouncement is merely the latest in a month-long series of pronouncements from Israeli sources that Palestinians are launching a Third Intifada. You’d think that Palestinians living under occupation– who launched intifadas in 1987 and 2000– would be the ones to declare their own uprising. Apparently not.

I first mentioned Israeli media predictions of a third intifada a month ago: Israeli prediction of third intifada follows days of provocation in Hebron. But the Israeli warnings/declarations have been repeated with alarming frequency. And these declarations coincide with violent provocations, not the kind of conduct by a country trying to thwart an uprising. Indeed, Mustafa Barghouti says it’s not a coincidence: the Israeli violence in the occupied territories seems “to be the type of constant provocations that would push things towards a third Intifada.”

Here are just a few mainstream media reports from the last week about the intifada announced by Israel:


Violent clashes broke out on Tuesday between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in a village in the northern West Bank, leaving up to 30 Palestinians injured, after an undercover Israeli force entered the village to arrest a wanted militant, according to Palestinian news reports and the Israeli military.

The spike in unrest comes after four years of relative stability in the West Bank, and it has led some Israeli commentators to speculate about the chances of a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Israeli and Palestinian officials say privately that they have no evidence of plans for a full-blown uprising, though nobody could rule out a spontaneous outburst set off by something unforeseen. Mr. Abbas has stated publicly that he will not support an armed uprising on his watch.

Tablet: Recent events stoke fears of broader violence, Third Intifada

Shortly before the new year, a number of newspapers reported that Hamas–in the wake of its victory or “victory” against Israel in Operation Pillar of Defense–was now plotting to take over the West Bank. The idea was that Iran, seeing its ally Bashar Assad in Syria faltering, was hoping to make the West Bank a third front against Israel…

the West Bank continues to heat up. Earlier today, Reuters reported a clash in Jenin, which was said to involve as many as 500 Palestinians who threw rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers following an IDF raid. It was the second such raid this week in the area.

According to the Times of Israel, the raids and targeted arrests are part of a greater effort to staunch the momentum that might lead toward a Third Intifada.

AFP: Israeli source describes a new Palestinian “awakening”:

Security services are bolstering efforts to arrest suspected terrorists to prevent simmering civil unrest from escalating into third intifada, sources say.

“There is a certain (Palestinian) awakening,” one source told AFP

“As a consequence a decision was taken within the security establishment to increase intelligence activity and arrests among members of Hamas or operatives against Israel,” he added. “It started in the past few days and will increase.”

Times of Israel: Fearing a third intifada, Israel boosts targeted arrests in West Bank

Israel is stepping up arrests of Hamas members and other anti-Israel activists in the West Bank in order to preempt a possible Palestinian uprising, AFP reported Thursday.

Quoting an unnamed security official, the French agency said Jerusalem was trying to prevent low-intensity flareups from turning into a mass uprising against Israel.

Ynet has yet another intifada prediction from a former Prime Minister:

We are on the verge of a third intifada,” he [Ehud Olmert] said at a Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. “I don’t know what will spark the great conflagration.”

Olmert noted the escalating violence in the West Bank and expressed concern that the Palestinian security forces could go rogue.

Again: Shouldn’t Palestinians be the ones to announce their own intifida? More to the point: Does Israel actually want an intifada? This piece from AP certainly suggests that the Israeli actions are fueling violent resistance, also that Israel is acting in retaliation for Palestinians daring to get non-member state status at the U.N. last November: Israeli undercover raid sets off violent protests (link scrubbed, also available here).

Israeli undercover troops broke into a West Bank apartment building in a failed arrest raid Thursday, igniting a violent protest and signaling that Israeli-Palestinian security coordination may be in trouble, officials said.
Palestinian officials alleged Thursday that the recent Israeli raids are part of Israel’s retaliation for the statehood bid. Israel strongly opposed the U.N. recognition, saying it was an attempt to bypass negotiations.

A Palestinian security official said Abbas has ordered his security forces to avoid any confrontations with Israeli troops. Abbas is concerned about an unwanted escalation he believes will not serve Palestinian interests, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal deliberations with reporters.

Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said Israeli troops have increasingly entered Palestinian-run areas without coordination since November. “There has been an escalation in Israeli raids into our territories since the U.N. bid,” he said.

Excuse my cynicism, but the build up and timing of these Israeli sourced pronouncements leave me decidedly unconvinced that Palestinians have called for a third intifada. On the ground protests and clashes at checkpoints are far from reaching a boiling point, let alone a mass uprising, reports Allison Deger, who is based in the West Bank. And Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stated repeatedly there would be no uprising under his watch. “We will only operate through diplomacy and through peaceful means,” said Abbas speaking to Channel 2 news last November. Abbas is committed to this claim, as proven by Palestinian Authority police facing off with Palestinian protesters in Nablus last week. And the head of the Israeli intelligence service said the other day in a closed meeting with Israeli diplomats that another intifada was unlikely at this time.

My own theory is that, as Ahmed Moor put it, Violence against Palestinians has been an Israeli electoral strategy for years. With Israeli elections two weeks away, candidates in at least three rightwing political parties are talking about annexing some or all of the occupied West Bank while battling it out for the settler vote, and two of those parties will likely be part of the next government. A violent confrontation between Israel and Palestine serves both a political campaign function and an annexation agenda.

Pressure drop, oh pressure drop oh pressure gonna drop on …

Allison Deger contributed to this report.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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24 Responses

  1. Rusty Pipes
    January 7, 2013, 5:10 pm

    An escalation in Israel’s rhetoric, just days after the PA announced that it will be issuing passports and other documents in the name of the State of Palestine. If Abbas is going to pursue the “don’t get mad, get even” strategy, he really needs to start filing some of those charges with the ICC.

  2. Avi_G.
    January 7, 2013, 5:24 pm

    The head of the Shabak claims that the chances of a third (armed) Intifada breaking out are slim. He goes on to use the term “simmering unrest”.

    The chances that a full-scale armed Intifada erupting in the West Bank are slim, but the chances for popular, simmering unrest with mass demonstrations are much higher.


    “popular, simmering unrest with mass demonstrations”.

    That’s code for “non-violent Intifada.

    Anyway, the fact of the matter is that Israel would benefit from a violent Intifada. It would take the pressure off of Israel to take any concrete steps toward a permanent solution with Palestinians.

    Beltway insiders and pro-Israel ditto heads would be lining up to the microphone to pledge their support and to reaffirm Israel’s right to defend itself.

    A non-violent Intifada, however, would prove to be detrimental to Israel’s interests. And that’s what Israel fears.

  3. southernobserver
    January 7, 2013, 5:24 pm

    Why yes, just as they deliberately provoked the previous protests, and then escalated them by murdering unarmed protestors

  4. Scott
    January 7, 2013, 5:30 pm

    Does Israel actually want an intifada?

    No question about it. They will use it as an excuse and cover to decapitate the Palestinian resistance and do some widespread ethnic cleansing. It’s very difficult, but the Palestinians really ought to try not to play into their hands.

  5. Ramzi Jaber
    January 8, 2013, 10:44 am

    Israel has aggression and war in its DNA. Add:
    – israeli elections
    – UNGA recognition
    – Hagel nomination
    – Iran nuclear discussions
    – Syria and Jordan unrests
    – Hamas/Fatah reconciliation
    – new Hamas leadership (soon)
    – Egypt MB

    all lead the criminal zionist regime to calculate that it’s time to destroy what we Palestinians worked so hard to build over the past few years with our blood and sweat, and to decaputate some promising new Palestinian leaders so they strengthen their position.

    This is the prelude to another illegal “preemptive” offensive. That’s why THEY are declaring the third Intifada now.

    • pipistro
      January 8, 2013, 3:59 pm

      Maybe it’s time to exploit quickly, at its best, the moody “simmering unrest” of European awareness. As said, the brand new UN badge could make a difference.

  6. marc b.
    January 8, 2013, 11:08 am

    not to toot my own horn . . . too much . . . but this is what i told olerg or someone about the provocation/promotion of a 3rd intifada back in the middle of november. like aviG says, non-violent resistance is just too threatening to the stability of sparta. to paraphrase/re-quote an israeli poem i saw recently in the NYRB comments section:

    just a bit more blood, jonathon, a bit more blood to top off the honey.

  7. amigo
    January 8, 2013, 11:11 am

    I am amazed that there are still people out there who are surprised by this.

    Israel cannot survive without Palestinian violence so it goes about the occupied State of Palestine creating violence hoping for a response so they can get back to the old reliable “we are the Victims” stance as they continue working on the ultimate goal of a Greater Israel , Free of all Arabs and as many non Jews as possible.

    Deja vu –all over again.

    Hopefully , the Palestinians will not bite, as difficult as that may be and Israel can then be shown for what it is and not what they want to be seen as.

  8. a blah chick
    January 8, 2013, 11:59 am

    A third intifada would provide a great excuse to annex Area C, just to show the Little Arabs whose boss.

  9. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    January 8, 2013, 1:31 pm

    ”targetted arrests”

    Seems we have a new example of Hasbara speech here – a companion for that old stalwart, ‘targetted (as opposed to untargetted?) assassinations”. I mean, aren’t all arrests ‘targetted’ in the sense that you don’t just pick up a random person on the street and throw them into prison without charge. Oh wait…….

    • Annie Robbins
      January 8, 2013, 2:06 pm

      hello Maximus Decimus Meridius. could you please point out which paragraph i used the term. i reread my article and couldn’t find it.

      one reason i asked was due to editorial streamlining, i thought that part got cut. originally i had linked to and mentioned the 200 PA security officers israel has targeted recently. in which it seems clear the arrests were targeted for reasons of provocation.

      whereas an un-targeted arrest implies the arrest is in response to a crime, given the context of the paragraph, under certain circumstances arrest appears to be provocative in nature, then people become targets for that provocation.

      iow, arresting hundreds of abbas’s security officers would fit that description. but i thought it was cut!

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        January 8, 2013, 2:38 pm

        @ Annie

        Of course I’m not accusing you yourself of using that term. However, it’s in the Times of Israel article that you quote:

        ”According to the Times of Israel, the raids and targeted arrests are part of a greater effort to staunch the momentum that might lead toward a Third Intifada.”

        Keep up the good work!

      • Annie Robbins
        January 8, 2013, 3:46 pm

        oh, i didn’t read it as an accusation! which is why i explained how i do on occasion use the term.

        and to address the hasbara aspect, which i shouldn’t have ignored:

        it’s interesting that the times of israel has used it here in the same context i did (or would), as arrests occurring sans a specific crime already being committed by the person ‘targeted’ for arrest. only the times of israel bestows a qualifier meant to justify the action in the mind of the reader in this case asserting the israeli forces are acting in “a greater effort to staunch the momentum” of the future third intifada. (as a preventative measure, kind of a preemptive arrest like a preemptive war, as if that’s ok)

        so that is where the hasbara is inserted. now similarly someone critiquing my usage in the example could assert i was distorting (engaging in propaganda) by conflating the israeli forces were making targeted arrests to provoke an uprising.

        but realistically, one should ask in what society does arresting hundreds of people who have yet to commit a crime stave off an uprising? especially when they are arresting hundreds of PA forces!, abbas’s own men!

        all people have an aversion to being hauled off, interrogated, imprisoned, removed from their families..in fact in the very area these arrests are taking place the people are protesting on behalf of their brothers husband and relative who are imprisoned hungerstrikers many of whom were targeted, picked up without charges and held in administrative detention ! (see fantastic video of hebron hungerstrikers protest in the “Israeli prediction of third intifada follows days of provocation in Hebron” link in the article). so the idea arresting more of them would ‘staunch the momentum’ of an uprising is patently absurd.

        but so good of israel to ‘staunch an intifada’!!!! who could believe this garbage!

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        January 8, 2013, 4:16 pm

        ”but so good of israel to ‘staunch an intifada’!!!! who could believe this garbage!”

        The answer to that question, sadly, is ‘very many’. There are a lot of idiots out there. Always have been, and always will be.

  10. yourstruly
    January 8, 2013, 8:06 pm

    a violent confrontation between israel & palestine serves both a political campaign & an an annexation agenda?

    whereas, a nonviolent confrontation?

    at a time when antiwar sentiment is on the rise?

    especially re: self, family, friends, but also increasingly societal, planetary even?

    possibly a death wish on the part of the jewish settlers?


    the world getting to see the nonviolent resistance to occupation?


    compliments, main stream media?

    like it was during those magical eighteen days in tahrir square?

    even more so?

    a people united can never be defeated?

    writ large?

  11. ivri
    January 9, 2013, 7:33 pm

    With all due respect this conspiracy-like theory does not stand up to logic. Israel`s interests are far better served by a quiet West-Bank than otherwise. Some people, writing from distance, are so immersed into the Palestinian dimension of the Israeli realm that they forget that Israel essentially runs as a normal country and as such has ordinary needs and wishes. Importantly, Israel needs a peaceful Wes-Bank for not being distracted from the central objective of keeping the economy on a good track, which is not a small thing in these turbulent times in the world – particularly keeping outside investors (which are many in the hi-tech areas) calm. even more basically, Intifadas can`t be pre-calibrated and can easily do more damage than you expect (and Israeli leaders are never callous about that). So I don`t buy the speculations here otherwise.

    • Avi_G.
      January 10, 2013, 10:11 am

      Israel`s interests are far better served by a quiet West-Bank than otherwise.

      And that is why, despite Netanyahu’s and Lieberman’s protestations, Yoram Cohen praises Abbas and the relationship with the Palestinian Authority. The subcontractor in the West Bank is doing Israel’s work of oppressing Palestinians and keeping a boot on their collective neck.

      Some people, writing from distance, are so immersed into the Palestinian dimension of the Israeli realm that they forget that Israel essentially runs as a normal country and as such has ordinary needs and wishes.

      Sure. Israel “runs” as a normal country. Did you write that from your Tel-Aviv Jewish-centric bubble or from Boca Raton?

      Importantly, Israel needs a peaceful Wes-Bank for not being distracted from the central objective of keeping the economy on a good track

      By expanding colonies, swimming pools and green lawns and miles of newly-paved Jewish-only roads on land it has stolen from Palestinians? That doesn’t sound like keeping the economy on a “good track” while the price of cottage cheese is sky rocketing. Besides, I’m sure Israel’s economy is ‘tanking’, especially given the simple fact that cash infusions from Uncle Sam are keeping it thriving.

      even more basically, Intifadas can`t be pre-calibrated and can easily do more damage than you expect (and Israeli leaders are never callous about that

      No. Of course not. It’s unlike Israel to provoke, instigate, foment and facilitate “damage”; Gaza, rockets, Sderot, assassinations, ceasefire violations, home demolitions, flattening of entire neighborhoods in refugee camps….

      I also seem to recall it was Ehud Barak who went to Camp David with the intention of having the negotiations fail so as to win the coming elections and show that he was tough on Palestinians when they erupt in frustration and anger over the ‘failed’ talks.

      Now let me clue you in, Israel is anything but normal and it is run by lunatics whose lies and nonsense you are promoting.

      • Avi_G.
        January 10, 2013, 5:25 pm

        It looks like my post has fallen by the wayside.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 10, 2013, 8:10 pm

      i’m so sorry avi. i’ve been so busy today i forgot to check on this thread. we’ve been backed up here wrt moderation, long story. not sure what happened this morning. i suspect there may be lots of comments backed up elsewhere.

      • Avi_G.
        January 10, 2013, 10:14 pm


        No worries.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 10, 2013, 8:14 pm

      Some people, writing from distance, are so immersed into the Palestinian dimension

      ivri, i watch trends in the news.what do you think of all these msm articles warning of a third intifada from israel? if you don’t want to ‘buy the speculations’ why aren’t you going after the israelis making these allegations to begin with?

      and i’m curious what you think of israel arresting 200 of abbas’s security, if, as you say “Israel needs a peaceful Wes-Bank”. don’t you think that would be counterproductive?

  12. mcohen
    January 10, 2013, 9:32 pm

    and i’m curious what you think of israel arresting 200 of abbas’s security,

    annie- ehud barak has quietly slipped outside -hope that answers your question,anyway if you need a hand with the moderation i would gladly help as it has been all quiet on the western front

    • Annie Robbins
      January 11, 2013, 12:44 am

      ehud barak has quietly slipped outside

      what does that mean wrt the arrests mcohen?

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