Despite the huge controversy on whether the second Intifada was pre-planned or not, and who started it in the first place, there is still a missing link in each side’s narrative. Unfortunately, neither could provide any empirical proof to “condemn” the other. The Mitchell Report published on April 30, 2001 stated that fact clearly, and provided different ways to reignite the peace process, to which the leaders of both sides responded negatively, thus leading the region into another violent episode.
Learning more about history can be of great benefit when it comes to preventing some horrible incidents from reoccurring, and one of the worst episodes in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the second Intifada. With over 3,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli casualties, the second Intifada left behind something even more dangerous and fatal than these numbers: it left both Israelis and Palestinians with an even more deepened feeling of despair and many lost faith in both the peace process and in eachother.
A few weeks ago I read an article on Maan News that the Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch was plainly accusing the PA of inciting violence in the country ahead of Obama’s visit. Shortly after that, Amos Gilad, Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs in the Israeli Defence Ministry, did the same thing, which seems to me like he is repeating the same mistake he once made in 2000. Back then, Gilad was the head of the research division of Israel’s military intelligence organization (Aman) and used his position to court Ehud Barak after negotiations failed at Camp David. With false and made up reports, Gilad was able to bring the country into a new circle of violence. Gilad’s reports insisted that Arafat is planning to use the Oslo Accords in a way that would bring about the end of Israel (existential threat); which is basically the best excuse the Israeli government can use to act unilaterally.
Accusing the PA, and President Abbas in particular, of inciting violence is very dangerous and there are no grounds to back it up; especially as President Abbas was clear on the necessity of keeping the protests peaceful and non-violent to prevent the Israeli government from dragging the Palestinian public into a new wave of violence, “again”.
People like Amos Malaka (headed Aman between 1998-2001), Ami Ayalon (headed the Shin Bet up until a few months before the second Intifada), the Arab affairs specialist Mati Steinberg (special advisor on Palestinian affairs to the head of Shin Bet), and Colonel (ret.) Ephraim Lavie (research division official responsible for the Palestinian arena at that time), and others opposed Gilad’s reports and warned against the fatal outcomes of such reports. However, they all failed to change Barak’s and Sharon’s minds and the second Intifada was an inevitable result, and was basically the final nail in the coffin of the Oslo Accords.
There are two major reasons why these accusations, I believe, are not true: first of all, President Abbas strongly believes in peaceful resistance, which is clearly stated in both his political programme and speech(s). For instance, he didn’t hesitate to condemn Hamas’s rockets, provoking by that Hamas’s supporters and some Palestinians who have started to lose faith in Abbas’s strategy, which according to them, has resulted in no substantive benefits for the cause. During an interview at Al Mukataa, President Abbas sounded and seemed pretty sure and confident saying that he is not going to allow an Intifada as long as he is “… sitting here, in this position”
The second reason can be attributed directly to the fact that the memories of the second Intifada still are fresh in the minds of both sides, and to Abbas the second Intifada with all its woes embodies the exact opposite of his political programme and agenda. In Abbas’s perspective, the Israeli government started the second Intifada, dragged Palestinians to a pre-planned circle of violence, and at the end buried the two-state solution or at least contributed generously to making it seem absurd. Thus, the continuous condemnation of violence, and his constant calls for peaceful protests can also be attributed to this reason; trying by these means to protect his people from the Israeli governments’ possible and supposed scheme for a new Intifada.
Are we standing on the threshold of a new circle of violence? Is it going to be a new Intifada, and who is responsible for it? Do we really need another ten years of killing each other to answer these questions and to learn from our mistakes?