by Khaled Abu Toameh
Emboldened by the "victories," Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently reached a secret agreement on the need to launch a "popular intifada" against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Their goal is to drag Israel into a confrontation with Palestinian civilians — one that would embarrass the Israelis among the international community and force them to capitulate.By allowing Hamas to celebrate its 25th anniversary in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority leadership is paving the way for a third intifada against Israel.
In fact, in the past few days, the third intifada has already begun, as violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers have increased in various parts of the West Bank.
Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters have taken to the streets of Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron and Tulkarem to celebrate the event, the first of its kind since the Islamist movement expelled the Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Since then, in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority had been cracking down on Hamas, arresting hundreds of its supporters and members and closing down dozens of institutions belonging to the movement.
In recent weeks, however, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has apparently decided to endorse a new strategy towards Hamas. He now considers Hamas a political ally rather than an enemy.
The change came immediately after the Israeli military offensive against Hamas in mid-November.
The rapprochement between Abbas and Hamas reached its peak before and after the UN General Assembly vote in favor of upgrading the Palestinians' status to non-member observer state in late November.
Both Abbas and Hamas see the two events -- the war in the Gaza Strip and the UN vote — as "historic achievements" and military and political victories over Israel.
Emboldened by the "victories," Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal recently reached a secret agreement on the need to launch a "popular intifada" against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources in Ramallah revealed.
The two men believe that such an intifada at this stage would further isolate Israel and earn the Palestinians even more sympathy in the international arena, the sources said.
Abbas and Mashaal are aware, the sources noted, that the Palestinians are now not ready for another military confrontation with Israel -- neither in the West Bank nor in the Gaza Strip.
That is why the two men agreed that the best and only option facing the Palestinians these days is a "popular intifada" that would see Palestinian youths engage in daily confrontations with Israeli soldiers and settlers, especially in the West Bank.
Abbas and Mashaal want an uprising similar to the first intifada, which erupted in 1987, when Palestinians mainly used stones and firebombs against soldiers and settlers, and refrained from launching terror attacks inside Israel.
Yet Abbas and Mashaal seem to disagree on the ultimate goal of the "popular intifada."
While Abbas is hoping that daily clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers will force Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem, Mashaal and his Hamas movement are hoping that the uprising would lead to the "liberation of all Palestine, from the Jordan river to the sea."
Abbas and Hamas have decided for now to lay their differences aside and work towards escalating tensions on the ground, particularly in the West Bank. Representatives of the two parties have been holding "reconciliation" talks in Cairo during the past few weeks in a bid to agree on a new strategy against Israel.
Their goal is to drag Israel into a confrontation with Palestinian civilians -- one that would embarrass the Israelis among the international community and force them to capitulate.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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