In the last month, unrest in Israel and the Palestinian territories has claimed more than 46 lives—39 Palestinian and 7 Israeli. Some Palestinians have called the unrest the beginning of the third intifada, harking back to the iconic Palestinian uprisings that erupted in the late 1980s and again in the early 2000s. The hashtag for many of the pictures and messages about the recent unrest is #الإنتفاضة_مستمرة (#ongoingintifada) or #الإنتفاضة_الثالثة (#thirdintifada). Likewise, Shabakat al-Quds al-Akhbariya, a Palestinian news network, has used the term in their ongoing coverage. But many analysts are skeptical. In his recent Foreign Affairs article, for example, Grant Rumley, a research analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, argued that there is little political endorsement for violence against Israelis, and so “the likelihood of another uprising is roughly the same as it is on any other day in this blood-soaked conflict.”
It is true that there has been little political coordination between the Palestinian Authority (led by Fatah) and the opposition (including, but not limited to, Hamas). But there are factions within each bloc. And even though the Palestinian president has called for non-violence, many within his own party disagree, seeing nonviolence as a way to prolong an unsustainable status quo. In other words, the recent wave of violence could yet erupt into something more, with major consequences for Palestinian politics and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The two previous intifadas did not involve much political coordination. The first erupted at the grassroots level. A unified leadership did eventually coalesce to coordinate the intifada’s objectives, but that came after the fact. Conservatively measured, the first intifada lasted for four years and achieved a major objective at that time: bringing Israel to the negotiating table.
The second intifada erupted as a result of perceived Israeli provocations, but it was never helmed by a purposely launched the second intifada have proved unfounded; Arafat couldn’t have stopped them even if he had wanted to. Despite fractionalization and lack of coordination, the second intifada lasted for close to five years.
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