RT: ‘New generation is capable of leading a new Intifada’
Posted by Tomski on January 19, 2022, 4:51 pm
New armed uprising in West Bank can turn out worse than the 2021 crisis
On December 28, shortly before the beginning of 2022, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas visited the home of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The meeting was the first between Abbas and a senior Israeli official inside Israeli territory since 2010 and was, according to Israeli media reports, focused on discussing the development of “security coordination” between Israel and the PA.
Days later, PA forces raided Jenin, making a number of arrests, following on from a similar Palestinian Authority operation to weaken armed groups in the area in late November. The chief of staff for Israel’s military, Aviv Kohavi, later praised the PA forces for their action, claiming that Israel had been planning a similar large-scale operation in Jenin, but had called it off when the PA began acting first.
Since last May’s Israel–Palestine crisis, after an 11-day war against Gaza took place, tensions have been continuing to build in the occupied territories. The subsequent torturing to death of a West Bank-based critic of the Palestinian Authority, Nizar Banat, by PA security forces, sparked fear of an uprising which could potentially oust PA leader Abbas, whose democratic presidential legitimacy expired in 2009.
To get to know more about whether an uprising is brewing in the West Bank and what connection this may have to the actions of the Palestinian Authority, I spoke to Dr. Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian academic and journalist. First, I asked him what he makes of Abbas’ meeting with Benny Gantz, and whether this was tied to recent attempts to crack down on the Palestinian armed struggle, to which he answered the following:
“I think that the Palestinian Authority and Israel have something in common and that is to make sure there will be no rebellion in the West Bank.” He added: “The West Bank, as of last May, is undergoing two types of transformations; one is the rise of the new generation that is capable of indeed leading a new Intifada… the other change that is happening in the West Bank is the rise of the pro-armed struggle narrative.”
I also spoke on the issue to a Ramallah-based journalist who wished to remain anonymous for fear of persecution. Speaking over the phone, he told me that “everyone is fed up with the PA, they know that they simply collaborate with Israel and the people don’t consider them as a representative, but instead part of the occupation.” He went on to admit that he “was even surprised to see the way young people in Palestine are behaving; they are going to other villages to resist the settlers and soldiers, they are attending funerals of martyrs in their tens of thousands, they are much more inspired now.”
I asked what threat is being posed by the small, often poorly organized, armed groups which seem to be popping up all over the West Bank in villages and refugee camps. He answered that “there has always been groups, which call themselves as being associated with Al-Qassam [Hamas’ armed wing], Saraya Al-Quds [PIJ Party armed wing], Abu Ali Mustapha [PFLP armed wing] or Kataeb Shuhada al-Aqsa [unofficial Fatah Party armed wing], but the problem is that, due to PA spies, groups have little chance at this time to ever pose major threats, but maybe in the future this will change.” He said that the “biggest threat to Israel are the armed attacks by individuals who decide to carry out an operation without telling anyone, this way there is no way for anyone to get the word out about their intentions and, yes, now we are seeing more of this, it’s no surprise [the Israelis] are scared and that’s why Israeli soldiers are more trigger-happy now than in recent years.”
To explain this point further, I asked Ramzy Baroud about the nature of the growing Palestinian resistance in the West Bank, specifically as we have seen manifest in areas like Jenin, to which he answered:
“We see this happening in the Jenin area, but we see this happening beyond the Jenin area. Jenin has particularly, in many ways, been free from the direct oppressive influence of the PA, so it kind of served as a place in which that phenomenon could express itself, in an open way. However, it does exist in other parts of the West Bank and, the moment that an armed rebellion breaks out, I think there will be much more of a popular appeal to it in various other parts of the West Bank.”
Ramzy Baroud also added that “Mahmoud Abbas knows this,” about the way armed resistance seems to be growing in practice and seen as the primary solution. He made it clear that he believes Mahmoud Abbas “is really not fighting for his own survival at the helm of this so-called leadership, he is fighting for the brand that he had created. The brand of corrupt officials and a security force, armed, trained and sustained by American money and military intelligence, Israeli support even, and the support of various corrupt Arab regimes in the region.”
The Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, West Bank is run by the party of Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah, but the party itself seems to be on shaky legs after last year. Elections were called by the PA president at the start of 2021, which caused various separate Fatah Party lists to announce that they would run against each other. This then led to a brief internal clash between opposing factions of Fatah. There were also several incidents of Fatah factions launching armed attacks on one another, the most prominent of which was in April, when gunmen in the city of Al-Khalil, Hebron opened fire on the home of Lawyer Hatem Shaheen, who was running as a candidate on the al-Mustaqbal (‘The Future’) list affiliated with former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan.
The elections were set to be the first in over 15 years, but were ultimately canceled by Abbas. The official PA position was that Israeli restrictions placed on voters in East Jerusalem was the reason behind the cancellation, but critics say that it was really down to the current leadership's fear of losing power if a democratic vote were held. Hamas, which won the last legislative elections, in 2006, was running a strong campaign and, due to Fatah running so many separate lists, it looked likely that Hamas would win. In addition to this, Marwan Barghouti, a prominent Fatah leader now held by Israel as a political prisoner, was threatening to run for Palestinian president and, due to his popularity amongst the Palestinian electorate, it would have been very possible that he could’ve dethroned Abbas.
“There is a serious concern that the moment Mahmoud Abbas disappears from the scene, certain branches of Fatah are planning to wage an internal rebellion for the internal definition and the soul of Fatah,” says Ramzy Baroud, affirming that he believes the ruling Fatah Party is itself in crisis. Not only this, but the fear of a battle for the control of Fatah is also part of the reason for the PA now intensifying its coordination with Israel and its battle to prevent armed rebellion in the West Bank.
Baroud added that: “Israel is very keen on [a Fatah rebellion] not happening. It also cannot afford to have the kind of rebellion that happened last May. For the first time in its history, Israel appeared to be truly scared [during the May rebellion], struggling to keep things together. It was a very dangerous precedent; where there was a near state of civil war going on in Israel itself, the West Bank was rising, East Jerusalem was on fire, Gaza was fighting back, it was unprecedented. Israel managed to contain that, but I don’t think Israel will be able to contain it again in the future and a similar rebellion could lead to the disintegration of the Palestinian Authority.”
In addition to the growing anti-PA resentment in the West Bank, the latest findings indicating that almost 80% of Palestinians polled say that Mahmoud Abbas should resign, is the question of the Palestinian Authority’s economic downfall. Ramzy Baroud says that the PA’s economic struggle is manufactured and shouldn’t really be referred to as an “economic crisis.” This is because there is no functioning economy in a conventional sense, in the West Bank, because it all goes through Israel. Due to the stranglehold that the Israeli government has on the PA’s finances, Baroud argues that, despite all his threats to do so, “Abbas cannot possibly operate outside of that model that is entirely dictated by Israel,” which is predicated on the Oslo Accords signed between the PLO and Tel Aviv.