Commentary Magazine


No Third Intifada

One of the subtexts to much of the discussion surrounding Annapolis is the belief that a breakdown in the current peace process will have the same consequence as the breakdown in the previous peace process—that is, the explosion of another “intifada.” To take one example among many, on Thursday, Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl ominously wrote that

For Olmert, Abbas, and Rice, the motivation for bulling through this familiar pattern of resistance may not be just courage but fear. All three know that if they fail this time, the result will not be the mere continuation of a miserable status quo. More likely, it will be another eruption of bloodshed and the consolidation of Hamas as the preeminent Palestinian power.

These kinds of predictions inject the Annapolis proceedings with a compelling sense of drama and urgency, but thankfully the stakes are not quite this high. It is easy to see why people who believe that the Palestinian terror war of 2000-2005 is accurately described by the word intifada (Arabic for “uprising”) would think that another one could come on the heels of failure at Annapolis. Intifada implies a spontaneous, organic, and democratic response to injustice and frustration. But the campaign of organized terrorism that was launched in 2000 was nothing of the sort—it was Arafat’s answer, supported by almost the entirety of the Palestinian leadership, to the question with which Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak confronted him at Camp David: Are you prepared to abandon being the head of a terrorist organization in order to become the head of a peaceful state?

The 2000-2005 terror war was not an outpouring of political or social frustration, but rather an attempt at so thoroughly terrorizing and intimidating the Israeli public that the Israeli government would concede almost anything to make the suicide bombings stop. For its success the terror war required political, military, and religious leadership and organization, arms supplies (remember the Karine A?), and funding—and it also required an enemy that was caught off-guard by the suddenness and depravity of the attacks. None of these factors exists today, primarily due to the total defeat of Arafat’s terror offensive.

Israel’s victory involved several key elements: the killing and imprisonment of large numbers of the Palestinian corps of jihadists, especially the terror leaders; the construction of a security wall that today makes Palestinian penetration of Israel immeasurably more difficult; and a revolution in Israel’s intelligence-gathering and military operations in the West Bank and Gaza. By way of everything from checkpoints and electronic surveillance to the cultivation of networks of informants and the deployment of undercover operatives, the Shabak (the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service and counterintelligence agency) and IDF dramatically have curtailed the ability of Palestinian terror groups to organize themselves and attack Israel.

You wouldn’t know much of this living in the U.S., where the daily heroics of the Israeli security services largely go unnoticed. A lot of people—such as Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl—apparently believe that the suicide bombings of the “second intifada” no longer occur because the Palestinians gave up the tactic, or decided to halt their offensive, or no longer wish to use terrorism to kill Jews. Diehl and his ilk seem to think that such attacks can be resumed at any moment. But they are badly misguided. Anyone who doubts this should read the Israeli press on a daily basis, where stories of suicide bombings thwarted in the West Bank—as opposed to stories of suicide bombers detonating themselves in Tel Aviv—are regular occurrences.

Annapolis may accomplish—or more likely will not accomplish—many things. But something that is not in the offing is a resumption of the bloodshed of the 2000-2005 Palestinian terror war.