Bracing for the Third Intifada: Why violence in Jerusalem signals an ugly future – Mathew Pulver/Salon.com
In 2013, John Kerry warned Israel about continuing its settlement of the West Bank. It didn’t stop, and here we are
A wave of violence and reprisals flaring in East Jerusalem and occupied Palestine has both Israelis and Palestinians preparing for the potential of a third Intifada, or Palestinian uprising against the Israeli military occupation. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has uttered the powerful word; Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and the head of the second largest party in Israel, Isaac Herzog, all see the violence as an incipient third Intifada. The 1987 and 2000 Intifadas claimed more than 5,000 Palestinian and Israeli lives, most of them civilians on both sides.
On the heels of the Gaza-oriented conflict of recent years, those brutal and bloody invasions of the Hamas-governed Strip having become almost routine, along with relative peace in the larger occupied West Bank, a Palestine-wide rebellion may surprise many who haven’t paid much attention since the second Intifada concluded in 2005. But it’s no longer the alarmists you follow on Twitter who warn now of an Intifada; the most important diplomat in the world, Secretary of State John Kerry, boldly took to Israeli television in 2013 to warn citizens that without a cessation to settlement growth, a central precondition to peace talks, Palestinian rebellion might become an inevitability.
The statement came during an interview broadcast simultaneously on Israel’s Channel 2 and the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, and saw Kerry uttering the following hypothetical: “I mean, does Israel want a third Intifada?”
In language that would be fairly radical for any White House official, Kerry delivered directly into Israeli living rooms a warning about the “increasing isolation of Israel” and a continuation of the “delegitimization of Israel that’s been taking place on an international basis” due to its intransigent land-grabbing in the West Bank.
“If we do not resolve the question of settlements and the question of who lives where and how and what rights they have,” Kerry continued, “if we don’t end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling [among West Bank Palestinians] that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to nonviolence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.”
American largesse notwithstanding, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the voters who returned him to office earlier this year weren’t much fazed by Kerry’s warning, and settlement-building has continued mostly unabated. You might even think Israel is provoking an Intifada. Under Ariel Sharon, Israel removed its relative handful of Gaza settlers at the end of the second Intifada in 2005, only to step up its populating of the West Bank, with the intervening decade seeing that number rocket from around 250,000 to more than 350,000, with another 300,000 in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The Israeli population in the West Bank has grown at twice the rate of Israel proper. Earlier this year, the New York Times described settlement growth under Netanyahu as “a march toward permanence,” the approach of a threshold of irreversibility and the effective annexation of the territory.
In its latest provocation against Palestine — and most of the international community that isn’t the U.S. government — Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government in September sent as its ambassador to the United Nations General Assembly Danny Danon, a true radical who openly discusses the annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, per millennia-old scripture. Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the selection of Danon “throws Israel off the diplomatic cliff” ahead of last month’s meeting of the community of nations. According to Israel’s second-largest party, the Zionist Union, the appointment is “another nail in the coffin that Bibi [Netanyahu] is putting in Israel’s foreign relations.” David Horovitz, the founding editor of the Times of Israel, wrote, “Undeniably, now, by the prime minister’s own decree, Danny Danon is the true face of Netanyahu’s Israel.”