The Palestinian Authority is playing a dangerous game. It’s turning up the flames of violence against Jews in Yehudah and Shomron, resulting in a dramatic increase in stone- and Molotov cocktail-throwings, but being careful not to let things reach the boiling point of a third intifada.
PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas wants to continue being received in world capitals as a “statesman,” and knows that a full-fledged intifada would spoil that. So he promotes what he calls “popular resistance,” which wins him points on the Palestinian street for being violent, while still being acceptable in polite, diplomatic circles abroad, for being short of all-out war.
According to a recent study by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, “popular resistance” has become a main component of PA policy. It is being used to “exert pressure on Israel to the extent and degree suitable to political developments, and is regarded as legitimate by the international community.”
However, adds the center, “the ‘popular resistance’ is not the placid, nonviolent protest the PA pretends it is. It makes massive use of violence, employing cold weapons. Usually, but not always, it involves the frequent use of Molotov cocktails and stones.”
In other words, while “popular resistance” is not as bad as the “armed resistance” advocated by Hamas, which employs guns and bombs, it is by no means a peaceful protest, as many Israeli civilians and soldiers have learned the hard way.
Evyatar Borovksy, Hy”d, 31, was stabbed near the Tapuach Junction in Samaria less than two months ago, leaving behind a widow and five orphans.
Three-year-old Adele Biton was just released from the hospital to begin rehabilitation for a serious head injury caused by a terrorist who threw rocks on the road near Ariel, causing her mother to lose control of the car. This child spent three months in Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikva, much of it in the intensive care unit, and has a long road ahead of her.
Soldier Avichai Dreinoff has third-degree burns on his back and has been in constant pain for more than two weeks due to a Molotov cocktail thrown into his jeep near Chevron. He faces possible skin-graft surgery.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews in Yehudah and Shomron are living under increased strain, amid the dramatic increase of attacks on the roads and other violence. As Gush Etzion Regional Council head David Pearl put it, “The situation on the roads of Yehudah and Shomron is intolerable. The residents are afraid to go out on the road.”
And the danger isn’t limited to the roads. Recently, several homes in Beit El had to be evacuated when a Palestinian threw a Molotov cocktail that ignited an adjacent field. The regular clashes between soldiers and Palestinian rioters from nearby Ramallah, complete with the firing of tear gas canisters that often waft back to Beit El, have become a Shabbos-afternoon spectator sport for children.
While Israel has its hands tied with developments in Syria and Iran, it must make clear to Abbas and the West that it does not accept the arbitrary distinction between “popular resistance” and intifada which has served the Palestinians so well.
In making its case, Israel must stress that “the PA publicly supports the systematic violence used in ‘popular resistance’ attacks, and both directly and indirectly provides financial and logistic support,” as proven in the comprehensive study of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
Secretary of State John Kerry must make it clear to Abbas that he can’t put a gun to Israel’s head, in the form of violence, to pressure its government to make concessions at the negotiating table.
At the same time, many have questioned the approach that the IDF is taking toward the violence in Yehudah and Shomron.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, in a meeting last week of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reiterated that he has no intention of relaxing the army’s open-fire regulations.
While the last thing Israel needs is a full-fledged war in Yehudah and Shomron, the failure to properly respond to Palestinian provocations may very well bring more violence, jeopardizing more lives.
As MK Reuven Rivlin, the former Knesset speaker, told the chief of staff at the meeting: “The whole world and citizens of Israel are exposed to photos of IDF soldiers standing helplessly facing rioting and attacks by Palestinians, and the IDF must give them the tools to deal with such situations.”
No one wants an escalation of violence, but that may be the result of an army that is seen standing by helplessly.
On the other hand, by adopting a tougher stance to the myth of “popular resistance,” Israel can, b’ezras Hashem, prevent such an escalation and help provide its citizens with the ability to drive home safely.