Why is Israel declaring the start of the Third Intifada?

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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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