October 8, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8959

Former Palestinian Minister: The Armed Intifada Was A Great Mistake; We Must Learn From Past Errors, Formulate New Political Vision

October 8, 2020
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 8959

In a recent article in the daily Al-Ayyam, Fatah member Ashraf Al-'Ajrami, a former minister of prisoner affairs in the Palestinian Authority (PA), harshly criticizes the PA's political policy in the last 20 years, and calls on the Palestinians to recognize their political mistakes and formulate a new vision and reasonable political plans. Among the Palestinians' mistakes he counts the armed action in the Second Intifada, which continued even after 9/11, when a global consensus against terror had emerged. This violence, he says, provided Israel with a pretext to build the separation fence. It also caused the Palestinians heavy losses in lives and money, and laid the foundations for Hamas's takeover of Gaza.   

Al-'Ajrami adds that another mistake was the Palestinians' failure to refute what he calls the false Israeli narrative that held the Palestinians responsible for the breakdown of the peace negotiations. He states that it was the Israelis who halted the talks, but that the Palestinians failed to clarify this to the world. This was because they were more interested in presenting themselves as heroes who had resisted pressures and opposed the insufficient proposals made by Ehud Barak in July 2000 or by Ehud Olmert in September 2008.

As evidence for the "Israeli lie and deception," he mentions a recent article by Yossi Ben Ari, a former senior figure in Israel’s intelligence establishment, which accused Israeli intelligence chiefs of concealing information from Israel's political and military leadership - specifically information indicating that Yasser Arafat had not initiated the Second Intifada but had only joined it after failing to suppress it.[1] Al-'Ajrami writes further that, with the help of "the Western media, some of which belong to the Jewish fortune," Israel managed to convince many in the world of the rightness of its narrative, just as it did when it invented a false historical narrative connecting it to Palestine, a narrative that is completely at odds with the "proven" historical facts regarding the Palestinians' ownership over their land.  

Al-'Ajrami concludes by urging the Palestinians to learn from the mistakes of the past and formulate "a vision and a view to the future" instead of repeating unfounded political slogans.

Ashraf Al-'Ajrami (Source:

The following are translated excerpts from Al-'Ajrami's article:[2]

"In an article published in Haaretz the day before yesterday [September 26, 2020], Yossi Ben Ari, a former officer in the Mossad [sic; Ben Ari is a retired army general and former senior figure in Israel’s intelligence establishment], revealed information that was available to the Israeli [intelligence] apparatuses during the Second Intifada but had been concealed from the decision-making and security echelons. According to this information, Yasser Arafat did not initiate the use of arms [in the Second Intifada and actually] wanted the efforts of then-U.S. president Bill Clinton to succeed and a political settlement to be attained.

"This information was included in a report that Ben Ari issued in 2000. The same position was adopted at the time by then-Shin Bet director Avi Dichter, by his deputy Yuval Diskin and by Ephraim Lavie, who headed the Palestinian section in the Military Intelligence Directorate's [research division]. Conversely, Amos Gilad, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate's [research division], adopted a stance that matched the official [Israeli] narrative, and concealed the position of his subordinate [Ephraim Lavie], head of the Palestinian section, [from the military and political leadership].

"The value of the information disclosed by Ben Ari is that it reveals the false and deceptive character of the official Israeli narrative regarding who was to blame for the missed opportunity to achieve peace and regarding Arafat's responsibility for the violence of the Second Intifada – even though it was Israel that employed the most extreme kinds of violence against the Palestinians from the first moments of the intifada, whether by killing the protesters in Jerusalem, and especially in the Al-Aqsa compound and in Gaza, or by later [killing Palestinian protesters] all over the occupied territories. 

"Official Israel managed to sell the world on its political and media message [about the Second Intifada], according to which Arafat and the Palestinian leadership were exclusively responsible for the clashes between [Israel] and the Palestinians and for the Palestinian actions against military and civilian Israeli targets. This includes the terror attacks in which some 1,000 Israelis were killed and thousands were wounded, as opposed to the 4,000 Palestinians who were killed and the 32,000 who were wounded, in addition to the thousands arrested. 

"This Israeli lie and deception is nothing new. It began with a false narrative regarding the history of Palestine, which is based on a notorious fabrication that Israel largely managed to spread and to sell to many in the world -to the extent that many international elements adopt this narrative, even though it is fundamentally at odds with the UN resolutions and with the proved historical narrative of Palestine and of the Palestinian people on the soil of its homeland. By repeating [its narrative] constantly and persistently, Israel managed to paint the Palestinians as the ones who reject every initiative and every offer presented to them. As part of this, Israelis and others constantly tell us, at every opportunity, that we rejected  the generous offer of [then-Israeli] prime minister Ehud Barak at the Camp David summit, as well as the offer of Ehud Olmert. Yet the truth is different, for after the failure of the Camp David [summit], U.S. president Bill Clinton intervened, and the negotiations, which continued in Taba, were close to a genuine breakthrough. But then Barak stopped them and held early [parliamentary] elections. As for Olmert, he too stopped the negotiations at a crucial point, despite the progress, because he was hit with corruption charges.

"But the professional Israeli forgery, and the use of their mighty and well-developed media machine – supported by the Western media, some of which belong to the Jewish fortune that supports Israel no matter what – does not exempt us from recognizing our mistakes in the Second Intifada, the 20th anniversary of whose outbreak we are currently marking [on September 28]. The first and foremost of these mistakes on our part [that we must recognize] was at the Camp David summit, when we did not assertively and clearly present our version of who was responsible for the failure of the summit, in order to refute the false and mendacious Israeli version of who was to blame. What interested the Palestinian leaders at that time was to pretend to be heroes opposing Barak's proposal and steadfastly resisting pressure.

"Another grave mistake was continuing the armed activity after the 9/11 attacks. At that time, we should have immediately stopped the use of weapons, after the about-face in the international position regarding terrorism and the emergence of some sort of consensus against it. We should have set ourselves apart [from global terrorism], and not made it so easy for our enemies to confuse things and include us with the international terror organizations. This is in addition to the heavy losses, in lives and money, brought to us [by these terror operations] that damaged the PA's infrastructure, set us back many years, and provided [then-Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon with an excuse to build the racist separation fence and invade the Palestinian cities. [These attacks] laid the foundations for Hamas's coup and takeover of Gaza, allowed the Israeli right to come to power, and eradicated the [Israeli] left and the idea of a political arrangement in Israeli public opinion... Decisive stances should have been taken at these fateful moments that required firm decisions,  as part of the [Palestinian] leadership's historic responsibility.

"These and other issues have been discussed at length over the past 20 years. But the essential question remains: Have we learned [anything] from our bitter experience, and from the heavy losses caused us? The first answer [that comes to mind is that no,] we have not, and that we continue to improvise. What is the most worrying is the willingness to renew the chaos. Even the consensus reached by all the [Palestinian] factions, to rely on popular resistance,[3] was not translated into [action] on the ground, due to the great chasm between the [faction] leaderships and the street, and because the people were not convinced of the leaders' ability to actualize the longed-for aims. We lack a vision and a view to the future, in light of the complexities that we are experiencing on many levels; thus, our choices are not yet clear and our options have not completely crystallized, despite the baseless slogans that we utter night and day.

"If only we could, 20 years after the outbreak of the Second Intifada, act reasonably, we would learn from our experience and together recognize our reality and [recognize also] how to extricate ourselves from the serial disasters that afflict us."


[1] The article was published in the Israeli daily Haaretz on September 26, 2020.

[2] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), September 30, 2020.

[3] He is referring to the online conference held on September 3 by the Palestinian factions, simultaneously in Ramallah and Beirut, at which the leaders agreed on the need to struggle together to thwart the U.S.-Israel peace initiative using "popular resistance."

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