The Palestinian “street” of late has become a more violent and volatile place. After prayers last Friday, Palestinians, mostly youth, hurled rocks at Israeli troops in Jerusalem’s Old City. The rock-throwing, of course, led to a more violent exchange with the Israeli soldiers.
While Palestinians were throwing rocks at Jews from the sanctuary of the Temple Mount, others took to the streets and did the same in Hebron and outside Ofer Prison near Jerusalem.
The ostensible cause of the protests was the re-detention of four Palestinians who had been freed for Gilad Schalit. Another prisoner died in jail, apparently of a heart attack. The cause of his death was being investigated as of this writing. His death sparked even more protest and violence in the streets. The real cause of the protests, however, is the plotting of the Palestinian Authority. The PA has decided to foment an atmosphere of crisis ahead of the upcoming visit to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Of course, there is no surer indicator of crisis in relations between Israel and the Palestinians than violence and possibly even death and “martyrdom” on the streets of the West Bank and Israel. And there has been no surer response to such crisis in the past than pressure by the American administration upon the government of Israel.
Seeing his popularity wane while Hamas popularity rises, and hearing no mention of his cause in the American president’s recent State of the Union address, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to stoke the flames of urgency in Obama’s Mideast policy. Urgency in Mideast matters has usually translated into the need for Israel to come forward with “confidence-building measures.”
Writing for the Gatestone Institute last week, Abu Khaled Toameh, the noted Israeli analyst, quite explicitly defined the PA’s goals.
“Palestinian Authority leadership has been encouraging its constituents lately to wage a ‘popular intifadah’ against Israel, each time finding another excuse to initiate confrontation. Now the Palestinian Authority is using the issue of Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike in Israeli prisons as an excuse to call for street protests and clashes with the Israel Defense Forces. The belief in the Palestinian Authority is that the violence on the ground will push Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to comply with the Palestinian conditions for resuming the peace process, namely a full cessation of settlement construction and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.”
As Toameh also noted, the violence has thus far remained on “a low flame.” But as all observers will attest, Abbas’ tactic of directed confrontation is very dangerous.
There is very little trust between the two peoples and their respective leaderships. Trust and mutual respect have been unnourished for years, like very dry brush, where all is brittle, spindly and quite without life. The spark that Abbas has thrown onto the brush could start a conflagration.
Once again, he harms his own people. Alas.