Volatile, but unpredictable

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The combination of a complete absence of political prospects for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and ending the Israeli occupation, as well as the growing daily difficulties experienced by Palestinians in the occupied territories, has been encouraging many analysts and politicians to warn of a possible resumption of violence or another intifada of some kind. This reflects a consensus view that the current situation is not sustainable.

These publicly-expressed worries over a possible collapse of the status quo arose in part after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made two statements, one after the killing of a 25-year-old Palestinian man in a peaceful protest near Qalandia and the other after an Israeli raid on two local television stations in Ramallah.

In these statements, the prime minister accused the international community, particularly the Quartet, of not doing enough to stop Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. He said that the continuation of such indifference might have negative consequences. In the second statement, he said that Israel carries out these provocative activities, such as raiding media headquarters in Palestinian cities, in a manner that seems to indicate it wants to drag Palestinians into another cycle of violence.

From the other perspective, there is reason to believe that Palestinians have learned lessons from their past and now believe that a turn to armed conflict and violent confrontation is not in their favor, but rather in Israel’s interest. There are two indicators of this. First, recent years have witnessed the lowest rates ever of violent incidents against Israelis. This is likely due in part to the effectiveness of Palestinian security forces. But that factor alone would not be enough to prevent violence. The other and most important factor is that the Palestinian public is increasingly less committed to violent means of resisting the occupation and seems to be leaning towards non-violent struggle. A report released last week by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre shows a clear trend of decline in public support for armed struggle over the last 14 years, with late 2011 marking the period of lowest support in this time period overall.

Experience tells us that if the peace process continues to be unable to bring Palestinians closer to achieving their legitimate objectives of ending the occupation and if Israel continues its oppressive measures and violations of Palestinian rights (including violent treatment of non-violent protests, the confiscation of land, expansion of settlements and the demolition of houses, etc.), the status quo may indeed collapse. This is especially true if the international community, and particularly the Quartet, continue to fail at ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis are fulfilling the obligations that they are committed to, especially the roadmap.

The collapse of the status quo does not necessarily mean a resumption of violence, however. It might mean something else. The history of the Palestinian people under occupation has shown that dramatic changes were not foreseen. Politicians and analysts have had trouble predicting the outcome of major shifts in our cause. We are at such a crossroads now, but it is only safe to say that there is an urgency in the air that requires serious attention by the international community. It is not easy for anyone to know or predict, however, what exactly will happen and when.

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