In Haaretz, Aluf Benn writes:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is busy day and night, preparing Israel for a fateful confrontation with Iran. But his real problem may occur elsewhere. The territories are heating up, with the Palestinians escalating their protests against the settlements and the separation fence. The settlers, meanwhile, can smell Netanyahu’s weakness and are undermining the authority of the state.
Two events in recent days indicate the threat of an outburst: the protest in Bil’in, which Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad participated in, where some of the 1,000 demonstrators tore apart a short portion of the fence; and the invasion of dozens of right-wing activists into the ancient synagogue of Na’aran, saying “we will return to Jericho and Nablus.” In both incidents, the violence was limited and no one was injured. But the struggle over the West Bank has transitioned to a new stage.
Fayyad, the former darling of official Israel, is proving to be Netanyahu’s most problematic rival. The one-time economist and technocrat has gradually become a politician – enjoying exposure, kissing children, stepping up to the head of the “White Intifada,” as dubbed by researchers Shaul Mishal and Doron Matza in their article in Haaretz this week. On Monday, the Palestinian government adopted a plan of action for “non-violent opposition” to the settlements and the fence.
Fayyad’s White Intifada is different from its predecessors. It has a clear political goal: Declaring a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders by the summer of 2011. By then, Fayyad will have completed the building of national institutions and will work on gaining international recognition through a diplomatic pincer movement on Netanyahu. He is receiving enthusiastic approval from the U.S. administration as a successful manager. Some 2,600 Palestinian policemen have already graduated from the training course run by U.S. General Keith Dayton in Jordan and are back in the territories, expecting to serve an independent state, not as subordinate agents of an Israeli occupation. The foreign ministers of France and Spain, in a joint article published yesterday in Le Monde, called to expedite the establishment of a Palestinian state and complete its recognition by October 2011.
The readiness of PA security forces to step outside the role of being occupation subcontractors is not evident to Jesse Rosenfeld:
Israeli invasions of PA territory have increased since the summer, hitting Ramallah regularly for the past few months to arrest popular struggle leaders and international solidarity activists, and raiding the offices of grassroots anti-occupation movements. While usually it is impossible to go more than two blocks in the West Bank Palestinian political centre without seeing armed PA forces, when the Israelis come into town, they are ordered back to their barracks and are nowhere to be seen. I witnessed this countless times while living in Ramallah.
Meanwhile, Israeli military assassination missions against resistance in Nablus resumed on 26 December, with three men linked to the Fatah movement being killed in cold blood while PA security forces connived with the Israeli military and were nowhere to be seen. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri was quoted by Maan news agency speculating that there was PA involvement in the assassination and warning that “resistance should be encouraged, not plotted against”.
Meanwhile, Haaretz reports:
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his Spanish counterpart Miguel Moratinos are promoting an initiative by which the European Union would recognize a Palestinian state in 18 months, even before negotiations for a permanent settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are concluded.
According to senior European diplomats and senior Israeli officials, Israel has relayed its opposition to the initiative – warning that it would undermine any chance of a successful peace process.
A senior European diplomat noted that Israel was informed about the initiative several weeks ago, a fact confirmed by a senior Israeli official. The Israeli official said the initiative is being spearheaded by Kouchner who recruited the support of the Spanish foreign minister, whose country also currently holds the rotating European Union presidency.
Israeli sources say the two foreign ministers are preparing an article they intend to publish together in some of the main European dailies. The main message of the article is that the European Union should recognize a Palestinian state before the completion of negotiations, under the assumption that such a declaration will be made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.