Former Shin Bet Chief: Palestinian 'Despair' Threatens Third Intifada

Yaakov Perry, who is also a Yesh Atid candidate, warns that without a peace initiative in next Israeli government, fundamentalist Islamist groups will seize the opportunity.

Israel faces the prospect of a new Palestinian uprising because of despair over the gridlock in peacemaking, Yesh Atid candidate and former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Perry said Tuesday.

The next government must make peace negotiations with the Palestinians its foreign policy priority, Perry told Reuters in an intervie.

"Israel must do everything to come back to the negotiating table and find a compromise," he said, criticizing other leaders from across the political spectrum for playing down the issue.

The military has reported growing violence across the West Bank in recent weeks, prompting warnings of a possible intifada after years of relative calm.

"Are we on the edge of a third intifada? It is a real possibility because of the amount of despair coupled with the [political] stalemate," said Perry, who took over the Shin Bet shortly after the first intifada broke out in December 1987.

Perry warned that fundamentalist Islamist groups would seize the initiative if there was no peace initiative. He added that another Palestinian revolt need not be violent, but could evolve into a mass protest movement.

However, Perry said he was certain a deal could still be reached, despite the fact that more than 500,000 Israelis have put down roots in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"It is doable, but not easy. I wouldn't say there is hatred, but a complete lack of faith. I think 50 or 60 percent of the issues are already agreed upon," he said.

Netanyahu has made security the focus of his election campaign, pledging to continue a settlement expansion program that has drawn international criticism.

While he looks certain to win re-election, his electoral support has been eroded by the rising prominence of Habayit Hayehudi, led by Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu aide and settler leader who wants to annex 60 percent of the West Bank.

Shelly Yacimovich, the leader of the main opposition, center-left Labor party, which was once synonymous with the peace movement in Israel, has tried to avoid the issue for fear of alienating right-leaning voters.

"The extreme right refuses to deal with the diplomatic issues at all and is hiding its head in the sand. Yacimovich is aiding and abetting the right without presenting the alternative," said Perry. "The only solution is a return to the negotiating table."

Emil Salman
Tomer Appelbaum