"The current intifada wave has secured major achievements," notes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
Most important is that it has revived the Palestinian cause, united the people, regained the initiative, imposed the people's cause on the international agenda, rehabilitated resistance, and begun to dig the grave of the Oslo Accords by via actual deeds rather than empty verbal threats.
It also sent a strong message to Israel that its occupation will not remain profitable forever, but may turn very costly, as evident from the state of panic and insecurity it is currently experiencing. It also showed Israel that its schemes to 'sear' the Palestinians' consciousness, separate and annex Jerusalem, and detach the Gaza Strip have not succeeded. Instead, we can all see the Oslo generation raising the flag of national struggle again.
Similarly, and throughout its long history, the Palestinian resistance has secured important achievements. Foremost among them is the fact that half the Palestinian nation has stood its ground and remained in its homeland; the Palestinian cause has remained alive despite all the conspiracies, wars and massacres; that an all-inclusive national entity was formed, one that embodies the national identity and represents the Palestinian people wherever they are – even though this achievement took steps backward after the marginalization of the PLO and its forced absenting since the Oslo Accords, ceasing in effect to be the Palestinian people's sole legitimate representative and the leader of their struggle. Nonetheless, all these achievements fall far below the level of steadfastness, heroism, and sacrifice offered by the Palestinian nation.
A comparison between the two intifadas – despite the qualitative differences between them – and the overall result of the Palestinian experiences and revolutions, demonstrates that the fault has always lain in the leadership, which did not know how to act. This has been the case ever since it imagined that a settlement was around the corner and a Palestinian state just a stone's throw away, at least. The leadership did not rise to the level of the people's ambitions and struggles. Instead, it pursued a policy that fell far short of the challenges and threats facing the Palestinians. It proved unable to benefit from the opportunities available to it despite the fact that it led the phase of the Palestinians' great renaissance and achieved Palestinian, Arab and international recognition of the fact that Palestine is the bearer of the flag of global national liberation and the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Neither in the past, nor today, does fault stem from the intifada's military or peaceful nature, even though there is much debate and disagreement over this issue. The fault lies squarely on the leadership’s shoulders, its awareness, performance, and will. It stems from the absence and forced absenting of the PLO and the people, and from the infiltration of inflation, nepotism, factionalism, clannish tendencies and corruption into the various echelons of the leadership.
Moreover, the leadership has confused the tactical with the strategic, and the possible with the impossible. It tried to reap the fruits of the intifada before they had ripened, on the pretext of salvaging what can be salvaged, and that something was better than nothing. Meanwhile, the other side [Hamas] is trying to deal with the intifada as if it were an end in itself and not a means towards an end. In other words, the aim is merely to keep the fire of resistance burning in order to achieve domestic and factional gains.
I would not be exaggerating if I said that the most important reason why the third intifada has been so delayed stems from the fact that the Palestinian people fear that its fate would be similar to its two great predecessors. The consequences have been dire – anarchy and security breakdown, coupled with the excessive pursuit of negotiations and concessions. But this was the result of the leadership's mistakes and its attempt to reap hasty gains, as well as a consequence of multiple strategies, leaderships and centers of decision-making in the first and second intifadas. That, in turn, paved the way towards the destructive inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] split.
The rush to reap the fruits of the current intifada before they have ripened has so far led to the dire consequences of Ban Ki-moon and John Kerry's tours and the International Quartet's meeting. This has bestowed legitimacy to Israeli sovereignty [over the Aqsa compound] at the expense of the Jordanian and Palestinian Awqaf. But this was only natural, because the assumptions on which this activity was based equated victim with executioner. They promoted what they referred to as 'Israel's right' to defend itself against Palestinian 'terrorism' despite the fact that according to international law and international legitimacy, Israel is an occupying and aggressing state, one that has expanded its settlements, is wallowing in racial discrimination and is trying to alter the facts and falsify history.
The problem is not a religious one having to do with permission for Muslims to pray and for non-Muslims to visit the 'Temple Mount,' as Netanyahu put it. That in effect bestows legitimacy on the temporal division and the daily aggressions against the Aqsa. The issue has nothing to do with Netanyahu 'accepting' to install CCTV cameras to monitor what is going on. The issue is one of sovereignty. For after the latest round of political activity the entire matter is now in Israel's hand, with no Jordanian sponsorship of the Awqaf and no Palestinian role.
To appreciate the gravity of what has happened, we should note that the UN and the U.S. have been using the expression 'Temple Mount/Aqsa Mosque' in their official statements referring to the Aqsa, for some time now. And this has elicited no protests from anyone, despite the fact that it violates international law and international legitimacy's resolutions that are supposed to be binding – at least on the UN secretary-general and the international bodies.
A proper investment in the struggle can be achieved if, first, there is a comprehensive vision that clarifies where we stand and what we wish to achieve, as well as a complete roadmap that clarifies how we can achieve what we want and within what sort of timeframe. Second, an achievable aim should be set for every phase, and the struggle would then be focused on securing that aim without having to pay a heavy price, and provided that that is does not come at the expense of our final aim and basic rights.
Four weeks after the start of the latest intifada wave, we have become more convinced that in order for it to develop into a comprehensive popular intifada that can lead to victory, it needs to set an achievable goal. It also needs a leadership that believes in it and is ready to pay the price of struggle. And it needs political, organizational, economic, and intellectual levers to lift it up. It also needs a broad national front that can deepen the popular character of the intifada, turning it into an uprising by the entire nation.
If, however, the leadership of the current 'intifada' is similar to that of previous intifadas, its outcome will also be similar. The great thing about this intifada stems from the fact that it broke out without waiting for anyone’s decision to that effect. Moreover, the various factions did not rush to assume its leadership because they fear it, and because their leaders are not willing to pay the price of leading it. It is not that the factions' leaders reject the intifada; the reason why the various factions have refrained from leading it is that their leaders have grown old and flabby, and have lost their ability to lead, but without a new leadership emerging so far.
Those who claim paternity over the intifada, or that they can stop it when they want, or that they can control it, are seeking to confiscate it without exerting any real effort to lead it. Those who claim they are leading it must explain the following: Why have they failed to stop it, or calm it down, or restrict it to demonstrations in the city centers, as the current notions advocate? How are they able to lead it in Jerusalem, which is outside the PA's control and is the center of the raging intifada, at least since the killing and burning of Mohammad Abu-Khdeir and so far? And what is true of Jerusalem is also true of Area-C and, to some extent, Area-B.
No one can control the intifada because one of its main characteristics is that so far it has been one of individuals, who have used whatever means are available to them such as stabbings and ramming with cars. They have resorted to these means because they have no other alternative, and because the intifada is not the work of organizations that are able to deploy more effective and organized and less costly means and forms of struggle. And while various factions’ members are taking part, with great effect in some places, this is happening without any vision, plan, or aim, and without the factions’ leaders daring to lead it.
There is one hope that this 'intifada' has restored, namely, that the people are still determined to achieve their aims, despite the high cost they are paying. They are no longer able to wait. Moreover, the leadership of the next phase may emerge from the womb of the current intifada wave and its inevitable sister intifadas that will come sooner or later. This is because, as we may note from what is happening, the 'third intifada' will take the form of waves; as soon as one ebbs, the next will flow and start rising. And this is because there is a division over the effectiveness of an intifada, because of the leadership's opposition to it, and because of the various factions' inability to lead it.
"Nor will those who have led the previous phase and brought to our present state lead the new phase. For, as Albert Einstein has defined it, 'insanity' is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," concludes Masri.