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In West Bank, conditions 'not ripe' for Palestinian uprising

Israelis and Palestinians point to a weak, fractured Palestinian leadership that has disavowed violence, the tight Israeli control and a budding West Bank economy that discourages a new intifada.

January 10, 2010|By Edmund Sanders

The weak, divided Palestinian leadership also means another intifada is unlikely, experts say. In 2000, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat supported the uprising, and Palestinian youths put their lives on the line for the popular leader.

Today, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas openly discourages Palestinians from returning to violence. Just over a week ago, he accused Israel of trying to spark another uprising so as to portray Palestinians as "terrorists in the eyes of the world."

He pointed to an Israeli raid in Nablus last month that killed three Palestinian activists whom Israelis accused of killing an Israeli settler.

Israel, he said, "seeks through these provocative and ongoing acts to drag us to a violent reaction and relieve itself from international isolation by making us appear as the aggressor."

The funeral for the three men drew thousands of angry Palestinians, who chanted anti-Israeli slogans and gathered in one of the biggest demonstrations in the city in years.

"It's anger," said Mahmoud Subuh, head of the Yafa Cultural Center in Nablus, where he works with young Palestinian refugees. At the same time, his group has noticed a growing alienation and disillusionment among young Palestinians, many of whom are going abroad for school or jobs. He cited the ongoing rivalry between Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas.

"The split killed the spirit of the Palestinian people," he said. "People are tired, and they feel like Israel can do whatever it wants."

But Palestinian activist Hussam Khader, who helped lead the last uprising and spent years in an Israeli jail, cautioned against putting too much faith in the belief that another uprising could not occur. In fact, he said, the fractured Palestinian leadership might indirectly encourage another intifada by opening the door to foreign and extremist influences.

"These new military groups or political groups will lead the coming uprising," he said. "If we had real nationalist leadership, there would be no chance for Iran or Syria or Hezbollah to play in our square."

Khader, who was first jailed at 13, predicted that unless a long-term solution is found for the occupation, it's only a matter of time before Palestinians rise up again.

"Young people today are stronger and more passionate than we were," he said. "If Israel keeps pushing us into a corner, it will be like waves in the sea. Waves sometimes seem very quiet, and then suddenly, they rise and crash and destroy the rocks."


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