Stormy protests over the past few weeks throughout the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, which reached a climax yesterday, may not be a negligible and coincidental series of incidents. It seems that after years of lying dormant, things are starting to heat up again in the West Bank.
Talat Ramieh was killed Friday in a clash with Israel Defense Force soldiers, which broke out following earlier struggles between hundreds of Muslim worshippers and police on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City. Those clashes started after Muslim worshippers hurled stones at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall following Friday prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The violence spread to villages around the capital, which are becoming a familiar backdrop to clashes between Palestinians and security forces. Yesterday, too, protests continued after Ramieh's funeral, from which hundreds set out for the Qalandiyah checkpoint, where nine people were injured in violent confrontations.
It is difficult not to link the events in the West Bank over the weekend with the hunger strike (which has ended for the time being ) by senior Islamic Jihad activist Khader Adnan. The strike by Adnan, an administrative detainee among hundreds who spent more than one term in Palestinian Authority jails, led to violent demonstrations for several days running, mainly in Ramallah.
Friday it was apparently a rumor that a group of Jewish extremists was calling to save the Temple Mount from Muslims that led to violent unrest among worshippers.
These individual events seem to create a bigger picture. The Palestinian street, which has been indifferent over the past four and a half years to events around it, including the Fatah-Hamas split, is showing much more motivation to face off against the IDF.
There are several reasons for this awakening. Signs that the rift is healing between Fatah and Hamas is bringing the "unity of the struggle against the occupier" into the headlines. The Arab Spring has also created the feeling that popular demonstrations can effect change on the ground. Above all, the diplomatic impasse and continued construction in the settlements is creating a sense of despair among Palestinians.
The dead end in talks between Israel and the Palestinians, along with quiet on the security front, has led many cabinet ministers and right-wing groups to wonder aloud about the possibility of maintaining the status quo. To their minds, continuing security cooperation with the PA, along with certain continued economic benefits and improvement in the quality of life in the West Bank, will help keep things quiet for many years to come.
But they do not take into account Palestinians' extreme frustration in light of the lack of diplomatic progress. That frustration leads to unrest over every issue - such as a hunger strike by a Palestinian prisoner - and might lead to many more protests.
Ramieh was killed, according to the IDF, after he threw firecrackers at troops and after one of the soldiers, who felt his life was in danger, shot and killed him.
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has long been warning that quiet would not continue on the security front. Yesterday he published an angry statement that the Quartet's ignoring Israel's actions is leading to Palestinian deaths. In a rare move, Fayyad criticized the Quartet's policy of focusing on renewing diplomatic talks while ignoring what is happening on the ground.
Without reference to Fayyad's warnings, the demonstrations of the past few weeks might not turn into a third intifada, but they probably will not die down in the near future.
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