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Fatah Officials Playing High-Stakes in Third Intifada Gamble

Israeli analysts and security officials are working to understand the calculations of senior Palestinian officials – including those calling on Palestinian Authority figures to “fight and even die” against Israel – who appear to be flirting with, if not encouraging, a potential third Intifada in the West Bank. Israeli Home Front Defense Minister Avi Ditcher told Israeli Army Radio that Palestinian figures are deliberately trying to create casualties [Hebrew] that would escalate the situation beyond control:

The atmosphere is charged, the air full of fuel vapor, and there are many hundreds of rioters of whom the oldest is 20 (years-old). They are trying to cause a situation in which children are killed – something that would lead to escalation.

Other Israeli analysts believe that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to raise tensions in anticipation of President Obama’s upcoming visit to the region, but is not interested in the outbreak of a full-blown third Intifada. The analysis tracks with statements that Abbas made in 2011 and 2012 to the effect that he would leverage public demonstrations without permitting them to escalate into popular riots.

If that’s Abbas’s gamble, it relies on his ability to outmaneuver other officials in Fatah and Hamas who clearly want a broader escalation. That may prove to be a terminal miscalculation:

Dan Margalit writes in Israel Hayom that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is interested in stirring up unrest ahead of Obama’s visit next month for political gain. “… Abbas chose to ride on the back of a tiger, and is likely to lose control of his conduct. There are members of the PA who are interested in renewing the violence and they back Hamas supporters in the West Bank,” he writes. “Returning calm until the establishment of an Israeli government and the American president’s visit is the correct interest of moderates on both sides,” he concludes.

Israel is making efforts to ensure calm, and has called upon the Palestinian Authority to take steps in curbing the riots. The signals being sent today – from the Palestinian Authority and from  Abbas himself – are not promising.

[Photo: The Israel Project / Flickr]