Israel: Uprising fears rise as poll nears

Jan. 15, 2013 at 3:02 PM
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- With Israel's hard-line right wing expected to score heavily in the Jewish state's parliamentary elections next week, there's growing concern the Palestinians, fearful their last hopes of statehood will vanish, could rise up again against occupation.

No less a figure than the veteran Israeli leader Shimon Peres, the country's president and the last of the founding generation led by David Ben Gurion, has warned the Palestinians are fast running out of patience with Israeli intransigence embodied by the outgoing prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

"The fire can be lit in an instant: another word, another shot, and in the end everyone will lose control," Peres told Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist and security specialist with the Hebrew-language Yediot Ahronot daily recently.

"If there's no diplomatic decision, the Palestinians will go back to terror -- knives, mines, suicide attacks.

"The silence that Israel has been enjoying over the last few years will not continue, because even if the local inhabitants do not want to resume the violence, they'll be under the pressure of the Arab world," Peres argued.

And if another intifada, or uprising, does erupt, the world at large can be expected to back the Palestinians, not Israel, he observed.

Peres, who has long advocated a two-state settlement, is an old adversary of Netanyahu and the hard-line right.

His position as president is largely ceremonial. But his unassailable credentials and a political career that began before Israel became a state in 1948, accords him immense authority.

Many senior figures in Israel echo Peres' warning.

Yaakov Peri, who was director of the General Security Service known as Shin Bet in 1988-94, also says Israeli risks a new intifada because of the Palestinians' growing despair over the long-gridlocked peace process that was launched with such fanfare nearly two decades ago -- and gone nowhere.

Peri, who's running in the Jan. 22 poll for the centrist Yesh Atid party, declared: "Israel must everything to come back to the negotiating table and find a compromise...

"Are we on the edge of a third intifada? It's a real possibility because of the amount of despair coupled with the political stalemate."

Like other Israeli observers, Peri fears the current surge of radical Islam that's coursing through the Arab world in the wake of the pro-democracy revolutions that began in January 2011 will be a critical factor in igniting a new Palestinian uprising.

The growing influence of the fundamentalist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in conjunction with the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood in neighboring Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011, is seen as a critical factor.

Peace negotiations ran into the sand before Netanyahu became prime minister for the second time in 2009, largely because he -- along with an increasingly strong right wing driven by the hard-line settler movement -- insists on continuing settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought to quell Palestinian impatience by pressing the United Nations to recognize Palestinian statehood in December.

Israel and the United States opposed that and the United Nations only accorded the Palestinians non-state observer status.

But Netanyahu was incensed, and announced that more than 7,000 new settler homes would be built in Arab East Jerusalem, conquered in 1967 and now virtually a Jewish suburb, and the West Bank.

Although there don't appear to be any immediate plans to begin construction, if carried out, Netanyahu's program will leave the Palestinians little unified territory to call a state.

Intra-Palestinian feuding is another factor.

Hamas, with backing from its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood now in power in Egypt, is seeing its authority consolidated, burnished by an 8-day missile battle with Israel in November.

But the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, dominated by the secular Fatah movement, Israel's supposed peace partner, is weakening.

The danger is that Hamas will take over the West Bank. If that happens, Hamas will be in a better position to rocket Jewish West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv than it is from Gaza.

On top of that, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyed says the PA's on the verge of bankruptcy after donor funding dried up two years ago.

West Bankers may figure the militants of Hamas have the right idea and join them in renewed resistance to an occupation to which they see no end.

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