David Harris
February 11, 2010 - 1:00am

For months Palestinian leaders have warned that if there is no progress on the peace front with the Israelis, Palestinians will become increasingly disillusioned and frustrated, with some likely to resort to violence.

This week has seen clashes between the Palestinians and Israeli security personnel in Jerusalem and a deadly stabbing attack at an Israeli soldier in the West Bank.

Both the Palestinians and Israel fear that this could be the start of a new wave of violence, perhaps similar to the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which rocked the area in late 1980s. Thousands were killed or wounded during that popular resistance against Israeli occupation.

However, local analysts said that a major outbreak of violence is unlikely for it is not currently in the interests of the vast majority of the Palestinians living in the West Bank.


The latest collision in Jerusalem took place in the Shuafat refugee camp at the northern end of the city, the only Palestinian refugee camp under Israeli control.

The trouble began on Monday when police officers and municipality staff entered Shuafat to arrest tax evaders and illegal residents.

In the ensuing clashes that lasted for two days, at least three dozen Palestinians were arrested and around a dozen injured. Some six Israeli police officers were also wounded.

The situation was calm but tense on Thursday.

However, there are fears that violence might erupt in other parts of the eastern half of the city, which has been in Israeli hands since 1967 but deemed by the international community to be occupied territory.

Both Jewish and Arab residents of East Jerusalem are facing potential house closures, demolitions and evacuations. The municipality hopes that its decision to deal with Jewish and Palestinian residences in parallel will placate both sides, but the recent incidents show that it is unlikely to ease the tension.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israel has reported several attacks on Israelis lately, including the killing of a non- commissioned officer of the Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday.

Palestinians also claim that they are coming under attack from settlers -- the Israeli residents in the West Bank.


The overriding reason for the recent increase in violence both in Jerusalem and around the West Bank is the Israeli occupation, said Shawan Jabarin, director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian human-rights organization Al Haq.

On a deeper level, there are numerous elements at play, according to Al Haq. The failure of the Israeli government to reach any agreement with the Palestinians and what Jabarin said is an Israeli policy of trying to push them out of Jerusalem are demoralizing Palestinian individuals.

Additionally, Palestinians are angered by land grabs that Jabarin said are carried out by "violent settlers," particularly near Hebron and Nablus, two Palestinian cities respectively at the southern and northern part of the West Bank.

"The occupation creates the reasons for violence, and on top of that the settlers are extremists. The Palestinian violence is not organized as part of a resistance, it's a reaction to the settlers ' violence," Jabarin said on Thursday.

Another apparent source of frustration is the ongoing house demolitions in East Jerusalem, although the Israeli municipal authority claims that it only demolishes homes built illegally.

Jabarin warned that the clashes in the past few weeks are merely a tip of an iceberg and that events similar to those of the First Intifada are likely to occur. It is more a question of when than if.

While some Israeli analysts agree with this assessment about the likelihood of an outbreak of grassroots violence, Jonathan Rynhold, a senior research associate at the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies near Tel Aviv, has a different opinion.

He told Xinhua that with the West Bank economy blossoming, people do not want to rock the boat. On recent occasions when the Palestinian National Authority attempted to persuade citizens onto the streets for non-violent protests, attendance has been very poor. In terms of organized resistance, many of the leaders of the Second Intifada that took place a decade ago were killed.

However, Rynhold would not completely rule out the possibility of an outbreak of violence. When there is uncertainty in the political situation, there is room for anything to happen, he noted.


With tensions in the air, Jabarin said that it can only be eased in one way.

"I think the solution is to put an end to the occupation. Even if there is (calm) for a short time, it's not peace and it's not long-term," he said, noting that the occupation is proactive and Palestinian actions are reactive.

Rynhold predicted that the closer the Israelis and Palestinians get to actually tackling the key issues, the more likely violence becomes.

Settlers will react when settlements are slated for dismantling, and the Palestinians could well respond to any concessions on the part of their government, he said.

"The settlements and the occupation of the West Bank are part of the issues that need to be addressed, but at the end of the day it's not about the occupation. It's about peace and security for both sides, and it takes two to do that," he said.


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