Will There Be a Third Intifada?

The unilateral push for Palestinian statehood may play a role.

Back in March, the social site Facebook took down a page calling for a Third Intifada, or “uprising,” against Israel. The page had all the necessary embellishments for an expression of radical rage: a fist, for instance, colored red, white and green, raised in the style of leftist solidarity. There was also a religious prediction: “Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews.” These sentiments were attractive enough to net the page more than 340,000 fans.

Acknowledgements of such fanaticism have crept into the press lately, but they have largely been ignored. The Jerusalem Post has reported that “seventy percent of Palestinians expect a third intifada similar to those of 1987 and 2000 if Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fail.” The article then assures us that twenty-five percent said they oppose another intifada; notwithstanding, the numbers do reveal a kind of begrudging acceptance of a culture of perpetual rage among Palestinians, whether they support it or not. For instance, the recent “Nakba Day” skirmishes in the Golan Heights and along the border with southern Lebanon were born of the same nothing-to-lose psychosis as last year’s flotilla incident, and this type of thinking has not been exhausted. One Palestinian official, Nabil Sha'ath, said a few days ago that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the U.S. Congress could have been construed as an act of war. Sabri Saidam, deputy speaker of the Fatah Council, threw in his own innuendo. According to the Huffington Post, Saidam predicted that the recent border violence is only a "rehearsal" for other uprisings. He even mentioned the likelihood of a "third intifada," although it's not clear from the context of the article whether he supports the idea or is simply anticipating it.

This brand of rhetoric is nothing particularly new or interesting; what is significant, however, are the context and circumstances. Come September, when the Palestinians apply for membership to the United Nations, they will once again find themselves in a situation in which defeat might be more valuable than victory. Technically, a vote in their favor at the UN would not confer statehood as such, only membership into the body. But a vote for membership would mean a de facto Palestinian state, with the "international community" sanctifying the so-called 1967 borders. This stunt is almost certain to fail, and the Palestinian leaders know this and perhaps even desire it. To be successful, the motion for membership would first have to clear the Security Council (with United States veto power) in order to be brought to a vote in the General Assembly.

Some countries, like Spain, have already declared their support for recognizing Palestine as a member of the UN. The decrepit and double-dealing Arab League has done so as well. This works out especially well for Amr Moussa, the league's secretary general, who gets to beef up his credentials for the Egyptian presidency by using the U.S. and NATO to do his organization’s wetwork in Libya, while also croaking out criticisms of the West and Israel on the side. In this way, he simultaneously gets to benefit from and denounce Western interventionism, offering everything to everybody.

Although a vote in the Palestinians' favor is unlikely, the point is that violence, being an effective public-relations implement, is likely to erupt in any case. One of the leitmotifs in this debate, for instance, is how best to navigate the presence of Hamas, which controls Gaza. One keeps hearing that Hamas doesn’t “recognize” Israel’s right to exist, but this statement implies that their attitude is merely one of agnosticism. On the contrary, the question of existence has elicited a much more forthright answer from the “Islamic Resistance Movement,” namely, that the terrorist group is dedicated to the immolation and absorption of Israel into a mini-caliphate. Ever since George Habash, the late founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, realized in the sixties that terrorism pays, the “international community” has shelled out the dividends. Hijacking planes and murdering Olympians got the PLO non-voting “observer status” at the UN. So we must ask: what would a few more bodies get them, especially at this opportune time of Arab renaissance and global anti-Israel sentiment?

To be sure, this was Yasser Arafat’s preferred method, and it worked beautifully after the Camp David and Taba summits. Last year, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, told university students that Arafat ordered “military operations” when he felt the negotiations weren’t going his way. Is there any other group in the world that could essentially cancel peace negotations, walk away without making a counter-offer, begin a terrorist campaign immediately, and still have most of the "international community" on its side? Launching the Second Intifada seemed only to prove to the world that Arafat and his camp were still the victims. Violence works for the Palestinians. When the world rewards malevolence, it ought to expect to get more of it.

So the stars could be aligning for another episode of madness and terrorism followed by lots of shoulder-shrugging over why the “peace process” hasn’t worked. Will there be a Third Intifada? There's something so foreboding in the air I almost don't want to give an answer.