The next Intifada

Paul Pillar writes: The two and a half years of uprisings in the Middle East known collectively as the Arab Spring have had an apparent hole in the middle; there has not been a new full-blown uprising during this time by Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This fact is testimony to the ruthlessly effective control measures of Israel, with a security apparatus that outclasses any mukhabarat in the Arab world. The Palestinian outlook in the face of these control measures is a combination of despair and being deterred. The Palestinians have been there and done that, with two previous multi-year uprisings, known as the First and Second Intifadas, in their recent history. They have every reason to expect that the Israeli response to a third uprising — especially given the direction of Israeli politics since the previous two — will be to press down even harder on the levers of control, not to do anything to move toward self-determination for the Palestinians.

The Palestinians also can see that, despite some erosion in the international support that Israeli governments have long been able to count on, there is little sign that the reactions of the international community, and most importantly of the United States, will be appreciably different next time. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu — some elements of which are quite candid about this — evidently intends to retain the West Bank indefinitely, is continuing the colonization program that has been putting a two-state solution farther out of reach, and shows no sign of fearing pressure over any of this from the world and especially from the United States, even with the intensified international attention that a new uprising would bring.

None of this, however, changes the instability inherent in subjugation of the Palestinians. The humiliation, the heavy personal costs, the impairment of daily life and the frustration of national aspirations are all still part of that reality. Human reactions to such situations tend to be more emotional, more matters of anger and frustration than of calm calculation of the adversary’s likely responses. A new uprising thus is probably only a matter of time. Exactly how much time is unpredictable; the timing of spontaneous uprisings for which the ingredients are already in place is always unpredictable. But as a point of reference, seven years transpired between the end of the First Intifada and the outbreak of the Second. The Second Intifada did not have a clear-cut end, but it has now been about eight years since it petered out. [Continue reading…]

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