Palestinian leaders have attributed the outburst of violence over the last few days to the visit of Likud leader Ariel Sharon and several other Likud MKs to the Temple Mount. Statements that violence is an alternative to a deadlock in the negotiations or failure to achieve Palestinian goals through negotiations have long been a part of Palestinian strategy and have become particularly frequent in the aftermath of the Camp David Summit.[I]
In the last week there have been many calls for violent confrontation with Israel. For example Director-General of the PA Information Ministry, Hassan Al-Kashef, in his daily column in Al-Ayyam, wrote: "The only way to impose our conditions is inevitably through our blood. Had it not been for this blood, the world would have never been interested in us... therefore the continuation of the popular confrontation is an urgent political need... the power of the Intifada is our only weapon. We should not toss this weapon away until the Arab emergency summit is convened and until we gain international protection... our national duty is to continue the confrontation, continue the Intifada, continue to sacrifice our martyrs so that the blood of our martyrs and injured will not have been spilled in vain... so that the Intifada of Al-Aqsa will be the gate to independence and freedom..."
Preparations for Clashes in the Wake of Camp David
During the Camp David summit and after its July 25, 2000 failure many Palestinian commentators and officials discussed and urged Palestinians to prepare for a violent confrontation with Israel. On July 14, the Israeli Arab magazine Kul Al-Arab reported that a high-ranking PA security official stated, "The Palestinian people are in a state of emergency against the failure of the Camp David summit. If the situation explodes they are ready for the next bloody battle against the Israeli occupation. The next Intifada will be... more violent than the first one especially since the Palestinian people [now] possess weapons allowing them to defend themselves in a confrontation with the Israeli army. The Lebanese experience of wiping out the Israeli occupation... strengthened the [Palestinian] spirit of armed struggle."
A week later the same PA security official reported to Kul Al-Arab that a state of emergency has been declared in the PA territories in preparation for a possible confrontation with Israeli forces. He said, "Popular recruitment in the PA territories has increased greatly and the popular Palestinian army has been established... Weapons have already been distributed to citizens by the PA, which supervises training and preparations for a potential confrontation with occupation forces." The source revealed that the training focuses on guerrilla warfare and there is great demand for these courses... He added that the PA has anti-aircraft missiles in all PA territories and that vacations have been canceled in all PA security services.
Mobilizing the Palestinians
Fatah central committee member Muhammad Ghneim stated: "The Palestinian people... have set the end of September as the last date to achieve a settlement realizing the[ir] hopes... [particularly] the right of return for the refugees. Resolution 242 alone is not the basis for a Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation... any disregard of the other resolutions such as 181 and 194 will leave the wound open and the conflict valid."
The Secretary-General of the PFLP Abu Ali Mustafa, who left the Palestinian rejectionist front and joined the PA, when asked about alternatives to the failure of the Camp David Summit said: "The issues of Jerusalem, the refugees, and sovereignty will be decided on the ground and not in negotiations. At this point it is important to prepare Palestinian society for the next step because we will undoubtedly find ourselves in confrontation with Israel in order to create new facts on the ground. I believe that the situation will in the future will be more violent than the Intifada."
PA appointed Mufti Ikrima Sabri - warned, "Any approach to Al-Aqsa will face violent opposition from the Palestinians... Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa will prompt massacres the magnitude of which only Allah knows. If Olmert thinks Al-Aqsa can be like the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron [where both religions share worship] which the Jews have desecrated... he is delusional. We want to clarify to Olmert and his supporters that harm to Al-Aqsa will prompt massacres and rivers of blood."
Hassan Al-Kashef, in his daily column in Al-Ayyam stated, "Every Palestinian home is able to stockpile a few months of supplies for his basic needs. Every home has enough space for a few bags of flour, rice, sugar, candles, and salt. [The preparations should not be for a military confrontation, rather for a popular Intifada.] It would be a mistake and a sin to prepare for confrontation as an organized establishment with specified camps, locations, and stores. This is exactly what the Israeli army wants, counting on its superiority in weaponry and in the air. The solution guaranteeing our superiority is to go back to our quality as a fighting people that does the Intifada."[II]
In Al-Ayyam Talal 'Okal said, "It is necessary that millions of Palestinians, wherever they are, go into the streets at the same time. This is the preferred way to counter... Barak's no's and the American bias. The Intifada was a great action to counter the offensive army [of Israel] as well as thousands of armed fanatic settlers. The Intifada was also the strongest and most effective means to convince world public opinion and attract attention to the national rights of the Palestinians."
Incitement in August
PA Minister, Hasan 'Assur stated that failure to reach a final settlement would force Palestinian military action and Faisal Al-Husseini, PLO representative for Jerusalem affairs warned that the peace process's failure could lead to violence. PA Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein stated, "...violence is near and the Palestinian people are willing to sacrifice even 5000 casualties."
There were other opinions as well. For example, columnist Rasmi Abu Ali who quoted Abu Middein, argued that it is better to refrain from violence: "The option of explosion is feasible for the Palestinians and it can even begin today rather than tomorrow. But if we are to make a rational account we need to count to 100 before we choose this option. The Palestinians are able to inflict heavy casualties on the Israelis. But the question is whether our own casualties will be even greater. We have to be cautious and exhaust the other option before we reach the point of no return..."
High-ranking PA officials discussed the role of the PA police and the Palestinian militia in the coming crises even before the outbreak of violence. Ghazi Jabali, commander of the PA Police, stated "The Palestinian police will be leading, together with all other noble sons of the Palestinian people when the hour of confrontation arrives..."
Violence in pre-1967 Israel
Well before the present outburst of violence, high-ranking Palestinian officials warned that violence would spread into pre-67 Israel. Head of the Preventive Security Apparatus in Gaza, Muhammad Dakhlan said, "...If Israel chooses the road of violence the PA can influence the way of life in Israel... If an agreement is not reached and confrontation with the occupation explodes both the Palestinian people and Israel will suffer gravely. Anyone who thinks that the confrontation with us will be easy is delusional. The reactive ability of our people today is greater than the days when the PLO was in Beirut. We will reach an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital even if it is by blood."
As soon as the violence began Dakhlan's counterpart in the West Bank, Jibril Rjoub warned: "It is possible that the disturbances will move to Israeli populated areas." The night after his statement the Jerusalem neighborhood Giloh was shot at from the Palestinian village Beit Jala, which is under Rjoub's authority.
PA Minister of Supplies Abd Al-'Aziz Shahin added: "...the Palestinian leadership will conduct the new bloody negotiations in the proper way. ...the successful leadership is the leadership that is not dragged into the battle that the enemy wishes to have. Rather it is the leadership that imposes [on the enemy] the terms of the battle, its location and its weapons."
Some Israeli Arab leaders confirmed the existence of possible violence in the Israeli Arab community, such as Israeli Arab MK from Israel's Islamic Movement Abd Al-Malek Dahamsheh expressed his readiness: "To be the first martyr [shahid] in defense of Al-Aqsa."
A Long Term PA Strategy
In fact, throughout the Oslo Process, Palestinian leaders have reiterated this principle, that if the peace process reaches a deadlock they will turn to violence. PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Sha'ath clearly stated this in 1996 at a public conference in Nablus videotaped by MEMRI:
"We decided to begin liberating our homeland step after step. It is now impossible for the peace process to halt. For if it does, all of the acts of violence will return to Israel. ...we honor the peace treaties and non-violence, so long as the agreements are fulfilled step-by-step. [But] if and when Israel says 'enough,' namely, 'we will not discuss Jerusalem, we will not return refugees, we will not dismantle settlements, we will not withdraw to the borders,' in that case it is saying that we will return to violence. But this time it will be with 30,000 armed Palestinian soldiers and in a land with elements of freedom."
"I'm the first one to call for it if we get to a deadlock, we shall return to the fighting and the struggle as we have fought for forty years more; it is not beyond our possibility."
PA Chairman Yasir Arafat has also, personally and explicitly stated on a number of occasions that the Palestinians are prepared to turn to violence if there is a deadlock in the peace process. For example, speaking to a "Fatah" conference in November 1998 he stated, "...the Palestinian rifle is ready and we will aim it if they try to prevent us from praying in Jerusalem... [agreements] better be carried out, because the 'generals of the stones' [i.e. the children of the Intifada] are ready."
Addressing a March 1999 "Fatah" conference Arafat stated, "We will continue our struggle until... our flag [waves] on the walls, mosques, and churches of Jerusalem, the capital of our independent state, whether some people are happy about it or not. He who doesn't like it may drink the water of the Dead Sea ...the 'Fatah' movement is ready to fight... if anyone tries to diminish our legitimate rights and our right to declare a state."
[I] MEMRI has monitored this aspect of Palestinian rhetoric for several years. For a few examples see Special Dispatches:
- No. 58: Violence and the Peace Process in the Palestinian Media. November 18, 1999
- No. 52: PLO Political Bureau Head on Armed Struggle and the Current Peace Process October 26, 1999
- No. 29: Palestinian Leadership Renews Calls for Violence March 22, 1999
- No. 17: Calls for Violence and Support of Iraq in the Palestinian Media December 18, 1998
- No. 13: Arafat’s Speech to a 'Fatah' conference November 17, 1998
MEMRI has also produced videos documenting this strategy.
[II] Al-Ayyam July 24, 2000. The day of the Camp David failure the PA showed the wide-ranged training of students in summer camps on TV and invited journalists to see it. The editor of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on July 24 criticized both the training and showing it, claiming that the pictures of kids training with Kalashnikovs serves Israeli propaganda.
 Al-Ayyam (PA), Oct. 3, 2000
 Kul Al-Arab (Israel), July 14, 2000.
 Al-Ayyam, July 20, 2000.
 Al-Quds (Palestinian), July 23, 2000.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), July 21, 2000.
 Al-Ayyam, July 24, 2000.
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Aug. 24, 2000.
 Al-Hayat (London-Beriut), Aug. 30, 2000.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 24, 2000.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 24, 2000.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 11, 2000.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 16, 2000.
 Voice of Palestine, Oct. 2, 2000.
 Al-Ayyam (PA), Oct. 3, 2000.
 Al-Sinara July 15, 2000.