TEL AVIV – Secretary of State John Kerry’s rhetoric may have signaled to the Palestinian leadership that in the absence of negotiations with Israel, it is legitimate to launch a violent uprising, or intifada, against the Jewish state.
His previous comments warrant review in light of the recent collapse of Israeli-Palestinian talks and amid the chatter about whether or not the Palestinians are on the cusp of a third intifada.
Last November, Kerry warned in a joint interview with Israel’s Channel 2 and a reporter from Palestine TV that the deterioration of peace talks could lead the Palestinians to start an intifada while Israel might find itself increasingly isolated internationally.
“The alternative to getting back to the talks is the potential of chaos,” Kerry said. “Does Israel want a third intifada?”
He continued: “I believe that if we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis; if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel. There will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that’s taking place on an international basis.
“That if we do not resolve the question of the settlements and who lives where and how and what rights they have; if we don’t end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to nonviolence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.”
Kerry again made similar comments in April when he said at a closed-door meeting of the Trilateral Commission that a failure to reach an Israeli-Palestinian deal could result in the resumption of Palestinian violence targeting Israelis, the Daily Beast reported.
Kerry’s intifada remarks received wide distribution in the Israeli and Palestinian news media.
While it may not have been his intention, Kerry’s statements seem to accept as a fait accompli that the Palestinian alternative to negotiations is the resumption of violence as a policy. His comments were not followed by any qualifier. He gave no indication that the Palestinian leadership would pay a political price for following the path of so-called resistance.
Such apparent acceptance gives an air of legitimacy to a violent Palestinian campaign. It’s as if Kerry is gesturing to the Palestinians that they can use terror and riot tactics after the collapse of negotiations.
After the breakdown of Israeli-Palestinian talks, recent events here may provide the perfect powder keg for the outbreak of a third intifada. Already, Jerusalem has been the scene of violent Palestinian protests in recent days that threaten to explode into a long-term campaign.
The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, one a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, have fueled Israeli support for a military campaign against the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. Meanwhile, the killing of an Arab teenager, who may have been murdered by Jewish extremists in a rare revenge attack, has jump-started the Palestinian protests.
Intifadas are not launched in a vacuum, and they are not singularly dependent on the mood of the so-called Palestinian street. For the tide to truly turn, the Palestinian leadership will need to fully support and even direct the uprising.
There are reasons for both the Hamas leadership in Gaza and Palestinian Authority President and Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank to favor an intifada.
The collapse of negotiations have rendered Abbas far less relevant, while the unity government with his rivals in Hamas has been widely seen as an act of desperation and a bid to remain pertinent amid Palestinian complains his talks with Israel achieved little.
Abbas could use a Fatah-led West Bank intifada to regain standing with his own people while leveraging the violence as a card to pressure Israel into more concessions.
Meanwhile, Hamas in the Gaza Strip has been feeling increasingly isolated lately, especially after their comrades in the Muslim Brotherhood were deposed by the secular military regime in neighboring Egypt.
The Islamic terrorist organization in Gaza has been contributing to the Palestinian violence with its daily rocket strikes at Jewish civilian zones alongside the coastal territory.
Following the recent Israeli roundup of dozens of Hamas leaders in the strategic West Bank, Hamas will likely been even more motivated to help direct an intifada to regain strength and power in the West Bank.
Still, Hamas fears a major Israeli military campaign in Gaza and would be wise not to go too far with its rocket attacks for now or risk Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launching a sustained military effort that could devastate the Hamas infrastructure.
However, Hamas is showing alarming signs of escalation. Besides the potentially deadly barrages of more than a dozen rockets per day, Israel on Sunday said it thwarted what could have been a major terrorist attack intending to use tunnels to carry out an operation within Israel.
For now, with regard to any third intifada, it appears most of the cards remain with Abbas and with the Hamas leadership. Soon the world will see whether they choose the path arguably set out for them as a legitimate option by John Kerry.