Palestinian youth - Moti Milrod - 18072011
A Palestinian youth throwing a stone at IDF forces during the weekly protest near Bi’lin in May. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Bulldozers were flattening the hill opposite Yasser Arafat's mausoleum and the muqata in Ramalla on Thursday, preparing a large plaza for the "independence celebrations." Security forces were deployed in the city's major junctions to make sure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was due to return from Cairo, reached his office safely.

Following Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki's statement Thursday that the Palestinian Authority will ask the UN Security Council next week to recognize Palestinian statehood, Abbas is expected to make a speech on Friday announcing the request to accept Palestine as a full UN member.

The request will be submitted next Friday. But apart from the bulldozers, no special commotion was detected in Ramallah.

Ninety-four flags of states that have already recognized the Palestinian state surround the plaza and the adjacent streets have already been named after some of those states, including Chile and Brazil.

But nobody is speaking about an intifada here. The Palestinians have learned the lesson from the last intifada, but have also understood they must focus on a popular struggle in the style of the Arab spring - processions, demonstrations and maybe stone throwing, but no shooting, suicide bombers or terror attacks as was their previous modus operandi.

All the activities planned from next Wednesday to Abbas' speech at the UN General Assembly are organized by a campaign staff calling itself "UN 194" - after the 194 member states and after UN Resolution 194 regarding the Palestinian refugees.

All the events will take place in Palestinian city centers, a clear sign of wishing to avoid confrontations with the IDF.

"Forget the third intifada," a leading Palestinian journalist, seen as close to Fatah, told Haaretz. "We believe today only peaceful resistance can bring results."

"They will prevent even stone throwing," he says. "The security forces made it clear in orders they gave their people. Even roses they won't allow throwing at the Israelis."

In Qalandiyah and other friction points, where Palestinian security forces are not supposed to operate, the journalist says PA forces will "spread out among the people in plainclothes and break the head of anyone who tries to disrupt the order."

The journalist, who has lived through two intifadas, says if the Palestinians go to the UN's General Assembly, which has no real political powers, the authority will receive membership in at least 28 international organizations, first and foremost the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

But there are political implications as well. "There is no doubt Fatah and Abbas will be the main winners, while Hamas will lose," he says. "If presidential elections were held today, Abbas would receive 80 percent of the votes. The public knows Fatah and Abbas led the move despite the heavy international pressures."

Throughout the West Bank people say no third intifada is expected. The general feeling among the Palestinian public is of weariness. Yet the possibility for escalation and deterioration exists.

The Abu Hamad family lives in the south of the city, in the al-Amari refugee camp. Mother Latifa, 62, launched the "UN 194" campaign last week by submitting a symbolic bid for statehood to the UN offices. The family has a long history of opposing Israel, often violently. Four of her sons are serving life sentences in Israeli prisons.

"We're not interested in an intifada," says Naji, a son and a central Fatah activist. "I'm telling you this as one close to the decision makers here. Only a few days ago Abbas said he won't allow a third intifada to break out in his term."