by Dr. Col. (res.) Moshe Elad
Arafat, the ultimate revolutionary, was simply saying what every Palestinian already understood -- if the Palestinians had nothing to lose, they would always be willing to take to the streets and fight against Israel.
The recent surge of Palestinian terrorism has raised the question -- are we on the verge of a third intifada?
An intifada, let us recall, is a popular uprising. Unfortunately, the term "intifada" is superficially and erroneously applied to any outbreak of Palestinian violence.
According to the history books, there have been two Palestinian intifadas. The first, in the late 1980s, was a true popular uprising that included stone throwing and fire bombings. During this intifada, the Palestinians won international support as the world rooted for the Palestinian David to defeat the Israeli Goliath.
The second, which was called the Al-Aqsa Intifada and took place in the early 2000s, was not deserving of being characterized as a popular uprising. Instead, it was a brutal terrorist campaign during which criminal actions, including suicide bombings and mass shootings, were committed. Many Palestinians now consider this campaign to have been a strategic mistake. The international support the Palestinians had accrued during the First Intifada steadily dissipated with each suicide bombing at a café or shopping mall during the Second Intifada.
When the late Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat first received billions of dollars from donor countries for infrastructure projects, he refrained from building anything, saying, "The revolution is not yet over. We expect any infrastructure to be destroyed by the Israeli enemy who we are confronting."
Arafat, the ultimate revolutionary, was simply saying what every Palestinian already understood -- if the Palestinians had nothing to lose, they would always be willing to take to the streets and fight against Israel. This was Arafat's ideology.
This trend was reversed at the start of the Mahmoud Abbas-era a decade ago. "We can sustain the revolution and build our economy at the same time," the Palestinian Authority president believes. The West Bank has prospered during Abbas' time in office. True, there are still high levels of unemployment in certain localities and the overall socio-economic situation is not ideal, but the West Bank is far better off than it was in the past. Economic stability has slowly returned to cities like Jenin, Tulkarem and Qalqilya, thanks to renewed business ties with Israeli Arabs and even some Israeli Jews. In Jenin's renovated industrial zone, auto repair shops are filled with Israeli-owned vehicles. And Israelis are returning to dental clinics throughout the West Bank, just like in the 1970s.
Visitors to Ramallah and Bethlehem feel like they are overseas, with all the high-end dining and shopping options. And one only has to look at the luxurious Rawabi neighborhood being built near Ramallah to understand how much the quality of life for Palestinians has improved.
So why is a third intifada not breaking out? On the Palestinian street, you hear a number of explanations, such as, "The population has matured," or "There is fear of Hamas taking over," or "We are conducting a diplomatic intifada at the U.N." But the real reason is that Palestinian residents of the West Bank see the turmoil taking place in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq, and they want no part of it. They have too much too lose.
Dr. Col. (res.) Moshe Elad is a lecturer on national security issues at Western Galilee College. He is a former military governor of the Jenin and Bethlehem Districts, as well as a former head of the Regional Security Committee with the Palestinian Authority.
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