“Time is running out for the two-state solution” is perhaps one of the most over-used phrases in the diplomatic sphere today. For the past few years the chorus of voices chanting this mantra have increased and have warned of dire consequences if this hourglass run out of sand. One of the threats they foresee on the horizon is a third Intifada (uprising) in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Not withstanding whether the two-state compromise has a sell by date, one could argue that the third intifada is already underway. Unlike its violent predecessor, the third intifada is mirroring its original as a non-hierarchal mostly non-violent protest against the occupation and its by-products.
Signs of this uprising can be seen across the events of the past few weeks. Khadar Adan’s 67 day hunger strike put a spotlight on administrative detention orders and created parallels to Bobby Sands. Adan’s protest went global, trending worldwide on Twitter and gathering media attention. His success at getting a release date has lead Hana Shalabi – another detainee – to strike, which has now been going for two weeks.
Rock throwing and protests on Temple Mount are also on the rise. These can be traced back to a forged leaflet. The Electronic Intifada picked up this leaflet and created a Twitter rumor of imminent take over. Though the rumours were quashed, last Friday there were riots at Al-Aqsa as a group of religious Jews ascended Temple Mount. Jews and tourists ascending is nothing new, but in the current climate it was seen as a fulfillment of the rumor. Thinking that they were trying to take over the site, stones were thrown and the police got involved.
This past Friday also marked the anniversary of the massacre in the tomb of the patriarchs in Hebron. Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinian worshippers and lead to the closing of Shuhada Street. During a demonstration to re-open it on Friday Fadi Quaran, a Palestinian-American who is a leader in the non-violent protest movement was detained. His case, like Adan’s has also gone global.
People visiting the West Bank have noted the tension in the air and the protests that are happening week in and week out, increases in rock throwing and spontaneous protests. The Israeli’s are also not deaf to this noting that the status quo is leading to violence. This awareness however has not stopped some parts of the government fanning the flames with plans for a rail network across the West Bank surfacing.
Like many of the protests around the region a big kick off event was not required. Tunisia had a single spark that grew into a conflagration and the West Bank is simmering. More important then noting its start, the real question is what will end this new intifada?
Diplomats like saying that the Middle East Peace process is like a bicycle, you must keep cycling or you fall over. To people on the ground the bicycle fell over in 2000 and despite various diplomatic efforts, has not recovered since. The first Intifada awakened Israel to the Palestinian national desires in a real way. The second Intifada killed trust between the peoples, what will the third bring?
The vacuum of vision and action at an elite level has led Palestinians to looking for new options. A leaderless, non-hierarchal movement can certainly motivate a frustrated people to protest and rise up, but the real challenge is to where.
Many in the non-violent movement focus on a rights based discourse and are ambivalent on the final political settlement. Protester’s experience will determinate their support for various positions rather then a vein hope of the establishment of a particular political goal.
Returning to the two-state compromise, this third Intifada could be the final part in the trilogy; all be it with two alternative endings. The first closes the circle that the first intifada started and manages to motivate the pieces on the map to move into the mutually acceptable two-state compromise that has the full backing of the international community and is enshrined in various UN resolutions and peace treaties.
In the other ending the third intifada implodes the two-state compromise, kicked off 20 odd years ago, with Palestinians moving away from self-determination and into uncharted territory.
The two-state compromise has not run out of time, the status quo of conflict management has. As true urgency and pressure returns alongside this new uprising, we should not see the removal of options, but the death of the status quo.