The Palestinian plan to go to the United Nations in September to ask it to recognize a Palestinian state inside the 1967 lines has been seen as a potential diplomatic catastrophe for Israel. However, the dim prospects for the success of this ploy due to a certain U.S. veto have resulted in signals from the Palestinians they would like to back out of the corner into which they have painted themselves. This has somewhat ratcheted down the alarm felt by Israelis about being further isolated in the aftermath of the collapse of the initiative.
But it is becoming increasingly apparent the real danger here isn’t a matter of what happens in the corridors of the UN but what may happen on the Palestinian street.
Many in Israel now fear after the collapse of the Palestinian independence push in New York, there will be a third intifada. Whether the protests and violence that could follow September’s dustup at the UN will be directly orchestrated by the Palestinian Authority or not, another round of violent conflict with Israeli forces manning checkpoints or border crossings might quickly escalate. While Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah may fear the spread of violence will serve the interests of their Hamas rivals, they may also hope if Israel is provoked into stern countermeasures to stop rioting or another wave of terror attacks, this will somehow strengthen their diplomatic hand.
Thus, it will behoove the Israeli military to do everything in its power to keep the violence and the bloodshed on both sides to a minimum. The Israel Defense Force suffered a black eye when a staged assault on the Syrian border by Palestinians resulted in several deaths. The IDF clearly wasn’t prepared for riot control measures in those circumstances. But it will have no excuse for being unprepared if the PA tries a reprise of the initial riots that rocked the country in the fall of 2000 after Yasir Arafat turned down Israel’s earlier offer of an independent Palestinian state.
To that end, the Jerusalem Post reports the IDF has gone on a spending spree procuring riot control equipment and lower caliber non-lethal ammunition that should, at least in theory, avoid the possibility of demonstrators being killed even when Israeli troops are trying to defend themselves. There will also be new rules of engagement put into place to avoid mistakes and the inevitable charges of the use of “disproportionate” force by the Israelis.
These preparations are necessary, and it is to be hoped they will successfully be implemented. But if the PA or Hamas is behind this new intifada threat, no one should be under any illusion that this effort will be foiled bloodlessly. As the Israelis learned to their sorrow in the last intifada, many demonstrations were staged with armed Palestinians lurking behind unarmed protesters so as to ensure the latter were put in harm’s way. If the Palestinian Authority or Hamas are determined to sacrifice another generation of their children to gain foreign sympathy and again postpone the possibility of peace, there is not much Israel can do to stop them.