Masked Palestinians hurling stones at Israeli troops outside the Ofer military prison near Ramallah,
Masked Palestinians hurling stones at Israeli troops outside the Ofer military prison near Ramallah, in the West Bank. Photo by AP
Text size
related tags

The writing was on the wall for quite some time. The recent riots and demonstrations that broke out over the last few days in the occupied territories should not have surprised anyone. After years of political stalemate, an election campaign that largely ignored the occupation, and statements by Israeli political figures that proved their dangerous complacency about putting the “situation” at the bottom of their list of priorities − the Palestinians were left in their despair and suffering without any political horizon.

Several developments have only deepened the despair: Israel’s intention to build in Area E1; its repeat arrests of 14 prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit deal; the army’s killing of nonviolent protesters and the harsh means through which it is trying to prevent demonstrations; the security forces’ failure to do anything to thwart harassment of Palestinians by settlers, who have become emboldened recently; and Hamas’ relative success in Operation Pillar of Defense at forcing Israel’s hand through rocket fire.

Given this situation, another violent outbreak by Palestinians in the West Bank is just a matter of time and opportunity. The extended hunger strike by several prisoners and the death of another security prisoner are liable to be the match that lights the fire.

According to accepted views, there is no leadership, intention or energy to stir up another intifada in the territories, but it could break out by itself in the wake of events that spin out of control. Therefore, the Israel Defense Forces need to hold their fire as much as possible and tighten enforcement against violent settlers who continue shooting at Palestinians, destroying their property and provoking them.

Israel must immediately stop the repeat arrests of released prisoners from the Shalit deal who did not return to terror, and ease prison conditions for security convicts.

None of this is enough, of course. If the next government won’t put the Palestinian issue at the top of its agenda, the demonstrations won’t be suppressed. The Palestinians have already proved that it’s impossible to escape the debate over their fate, even if Israel tries to keep busy with other matters, which are secondary in importance.

The Palestinian issue must now be Israel’s first order of business, if it doesn’t want to deal with another intifada.