Obama’s Intifada Welcoming Committee
Jonathan S. Tobin
It’s difficult to say yet what exactly will be on President Obama’s mind when he heads to Israel next month, but an all-out push for another futile try to make peace with the Palestinians may not be on the agenda. It’s likely the president will continue his advocacy for a two-state solution, but after more than four years of failure even this administration appears to have gotten the message that any more effort expended on the peace process will be sunk, as it has every other time, by Palestinian intransigence. But the Palestinian Authority, which has ignored every attempt by the Obama White House to tip the diplomatic playing field in their favor, may be planning its own little surprise for the president.
As journalist Khaled Abu Toameh reports, PA head Mahmoud Abbas is hoping to create an atmosphere in the country in advance of Obama’s arrival that will force him to push Israel for more concessions:
There are many signs that the Palestinian Authority is seeking to escalate tensions in the West Bank ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to the region next month.
Although the Palestinian Authority probably does not want an all-out confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis at this stage, some Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah believe that a “mini-intifada” would serve the Palestinians’ interests, especially on the eve of Obama’s visit.
The officials hope that scenes of daily clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank will prompt Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to make far-reaching concessions to the Palestinian Authority.
This is why the Palestinian Authority leadership has been encouraging its constituents lately to wage a “popular intifada” against Israel, each time finding another excuse to initiate confrontations between Palestinians and Israel.
Like the decision of his predecessor Yasir Arafat to launch the second intifada in 2000 after rejecting Ehud Barak’s offer of a Palestinian state, the whole point of the agitation is to manufacture a sense of crisis that requires U.S. intervention. If the resulting chaos further wounds an already depressed West Bank economy or results in violence that takes the lives of even more Palestinians than Israelis, the PA leadership will still think another intifada a clever idea.
In one sense they are right. Any escalation of violence, no matter how much it is the product of a political decision rather than a popular protest, will generate a lot of negative press for Israel. Even the most restrained measures of Israeli self-defense (such as the security fence that prevents suicide bombings) will be denounced by Europe and by many American liberals as disproportionate or cruel. As has been the case since 1948, the plight of the Palestinians Arabs will ignored as they are used as political pawns in the effort to destroy Israel.
But the Palestinians’ problem is that although they are certainly capable of churning up enough violence and suffering in order to get more attention for their cause, their obvious disinclination in making peace on any terms makes it difficult to sustain the interest of even the most sympathetic of foreign leaders, such as Barack Obama. Their refusal to return to the negotiating table with the Israelis even after Obama had pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze West Bank settlement building and their decision to abandon the U.S.-led process in favor of a dead-end bid for United Nations recognition may have finally made it obvious even to this administration than any political capital expended on them would be wasted.
Nor, even under U.S. duress, is there much chance that Israel will consent to a West Bank withdrawal that is likely to duplicate the situation in Gaza, where Hamas terrorists used land vacated by the Israelis to create a terrorist state.
All this means that while the Palestinians have the capacity to make themselves troublesome, they do not have the ability to take advantage of the good will felt for them by many in this administration or the zeal of new Secretary of State John Kerry to succeed where all of his predecessors have failed.
Another intifada will be a trial for the Israelis and an annoyance for President Obama, who is far more interested in keeping Netanyahu in check when it comes to forestalling the Iranian nuclear threat than he is in appeasing the Palestinians. But it will be a tragedy for the people of the West Bank. Until they are ready to throw off a leadership that is incapable of ending the conflict or recognizing a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, they will continue to suffer.