Dr. Emmanuel NavonThe author heads the Political Science and Communications Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College, and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
The death of Arafat Jaradat in an Israeli jail has raised the fear of a “third intifada.” But if a new intifada were indeed to erupt, it would not be the third. It would be the sixth.
Historically, intifadas have always followed the same pattern: a. the Palestinian leadership comes-up with a lie and deliberately inflames its population; b. once the violence turns lethal, the Palestinian leadership claims it had nothing to do with it; c. the international community steps it, explaining that in order to stop the violence Israel must address the Palestinians’ justified anger and legitimate claims; d. the Palestinian leadership gets from Israel what it failed to obtain at the negotiation table. It always works, so why not keep going?
The first intifada erupted in 1929, when Hadj-Amin al-Husseini spread the lie (with doctored pictures) that the Jews were planning to overtake the Al-Aqsa mosque in order to rebuild their temple. Al-Husseini used violence because he had failed to convince the British to halt Jewish immigration and land purchases. The violence he ignited was lethal: 133 Jews were killed, and the Jewish community of Hevron was decimated. But the strategy worked: in October 1930, Sir John Hope Simpson’s report cleared the Mufti of any responsibility for the violence, and it agreed to curb Jewish immigration. Al-Husseini realized that this was the way to go, so he kept going.
Al-Husseini launched a second intifada in 1936. He wanted the British to repeal the League of Nations mandate and establish an Arab state instead of a “Jewish National Home.” This time, some 400 Jews were killed. Again, it worked: the Peel Commission (1937) recommended the de facto cancellation of the League of Nations mandate, and the establishment of a mini Jewish state in the Galilee as well as on a narrow strip between Tel-Aviv and Haifa. Al-Husseini rejected the offer, however, and intensified the violence. The British made him a better offer still with the 1939 White Paper, which further curbed Jewish immigration and purchasing rights.
Yasser Arafat, who more than once described al-Husseini as his hero and his model, used the very same tactics. On December 8, 1987, an Israeli truck driver accidentally killed four bystanders in Gaza. Although this was a road accident, the PLO decided to spread the lie that it was a deliberate murder. This is how the third intifada (generally and inaccurately known as the “first intifada”) started. Some 200 Israelis were killed. As a result, Israel agreed (in the Oslo Accords) to give the PLO a foothold in the Gaza Strip and in Jericho. Within twenty years, Arafat had managed to implement the PLO’s “phased plan” adopted in Cairo in 1974.
After the 1996 Israeli elections, Arafat decided to launch a fourth intifada in order to have the international community twist the arm of Israel’s new government. This time, the lie spread by Arafat was that Israel was causing the Al-Aqsa Mosque to collapse. In September 1996, the Israeli government opened the northern exit of the Hasmonean tunnel so that visitors wouldn’t have to walk back to the entrance at the end of their tour. The opening had been coordinated with the Wakf, which was given permission to build a huge mosque in Solomon’s Stables. In spite of this deal, Arafat decided to spread violence by calling upon the Palestinian to “protect the a-Aqsa Mosque” (he claimed that Israel had dug a tunnel under the Al-Aqsa Mosque, when in fact Israel had only opened another exit to a tunnel that had been there for 2000 years and that does not run under the Al-Aqsa Mosque). Again, it worked: President Bill Clinton intervened and decided meet Arafat’s political demands. The result? The 1997 Hebron Agreement, in with Israel agreed to withdraw from the City of the Patriarchs.
Then came the fifth intifada in September 2000, which killed over 1,000 Israelis. This intifada was not ignited by one lie, but two: Ariel Sharon’s visit on the Temple Mount was a provocation (in fact, Prime Minister Ehud Barak had informed Arafat of the visit and had coordinated the timing with him), and Israel had assassinated a child at the Netzarim junction in Gaza (in reality, the “killing” of Mohamed al-Dura had been staged and filmed by Palestinian cameraman Talal abu-Rahmah). Arafat and Bargouti had planned the fifth intifada for a long time, and when it became clear at Camp David in July 2000 that Israel was not going to give in on the “right of return,” Arafat played the old “Al-Husseini trick.” It worked, as always. The PLO obtained more Israeli concessions at the Taba Talks and with the Clinton parameters. Most significantly, the fifth intifada achieved two major goals: for the first time, a US president (George W. Bush) and an Israeli prime minister (Ariel Sharon) openly declared that they agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state (Road Map, 2003), and for the first time Israel dismantled settlements (Disengagement plan, 2005).
If it always works, why not keep going? This is why a sixth intifada is quite likely ahead of President Obama’s visit to Israel. Abbas’ main objective is to get his terrorists out of Israeli jails, and the recipe will be the same: a. make-up a lie; b. get mad at your own lie and threaten to get madder it you don’t get your way; c. make the world believe that the whole fuss will end the moment Israel gives it; d. repeat the operation every ten to twenty years.
Since the last intifada ended eight years ago, we should expect another round soon, according to the recipe.