|Samer Issawi's sister [center] holds cake with her brother's impression on it. She is flanked by photos of him. The Palestinian Authority is painting Issawi as a hero, but he is simply a jihadi sleazeball.|
Prisoner Protests Mark PA Effort to Start a "Popular Intifada" -Elhanan Miller
With little prospect of success on the reconciliation front with Hamas, and on the verge of bankruptcy, the Palestinian Authority has been instrumental in orchestrating the escalating series of popular demonstrations in recent weeks, held in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated at the Beitunia military checkpoint near the Ofer Prison outside Ramallah.
"The PA is incessantly searching for issues to mobilize the public," said Hillel Frisch of Bar-Ilan University's BESA Center. "If it weren't prisoners, the PA would find another issue. This is a highly planned, top-down mobilization." PA President Mahmoud Abbas has praised the protests and Samer Issawi's hunger strike, calling them "an honorable example of our people's struggle for freedom and independence."
Yet, Frisch said, the protest movement lacks two essential components for success: an effective organizational framework and middle-ranking commanders. "Violence can flare," Frisch said, "but without organization and middle command it won't persist."
Shalom Harari, a former adviser on Arab affairs at Israel's Defense Ministry, added, "The Arab World and the West are beginning to forget the Palestinian issue. So the PA has decided to employ a policy of 'soft violence,' which isn't necessarily so soft."
(Times of Israel)
Sympathy for a Palestinian Terrorist? -Tamar Sternthal
Palestinian demonstrations and NGO activity on behalf of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Samer Issawi have intensified. Who is Samer Issawi and why had he been imprisoned?
According to the Israel Prison Service, Samer Issawi of Issawiyeh, Jerusalem, was arrested in April 2002 and sentenced to 26 years for attempted murder, belonging to a terror organization, military training, and possession of weapons, arms and explosive materials. Issawi was one of the 477 Palestinian prisoners released in the first stage of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October 2011. Issawi was convicted of firing a gun at a civilian vehicle in October 2001, indiscriminately firing an AK47 assault rifle at civilian buses, and manufacturing and distributing pipe bombs used in attacks on Israeli civilians.
As part of the Shalit deal, a condition of Issawi's release was that he was banned from entering the West Bank, but he violated the terms of his release by entering the West Bank three times after he was freed, and was therefore rearrested. As for his 200-day hunger strike, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said Issawi began his fast in August and has been observing it intermittently. Prison spokesman Sivan Weizman said he eats periodically.
Palestinians Plan Violence to Force the U.S. to Extract Concessions from Israel
-Khaled Abu Toameh
There are many signs that the Palestinian Authority is seeking to escalate tensions in the West Bank ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the region next month. Some PA officials in Ramallah believe that a "mini-intifada" would serve the Palestinians' interests, hoping that scenes of daily clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians will prompt Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to make far-reaching concessions.
Now the PA is using the issue of Palestinian prisoners as an excuse to call for street protests and clashes. Before that, the PA used the issue of settlements as an excuse for protests. Before that, the PA leadership encouraged Palestinians to protest against Israeli "plans" to destroy the Aqsa Mosque.
Israel Demands PA Curb Protests
Israel demanded the Palestinian Authority stem a surge of anti-Israeli protests ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the region next month.
Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, questioned whether the protests were just a tactical move by the Palestinians to draw international attention before Obama's visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. However, he told Israel Radio: "Things can get out of control."
West Bank Tension Escalates as Obama's Visit Draws Nearer -Amos Harel
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank are closer to the boiling point than they have been in many years. For the first time since 2007, it seems that the Palestinian Authority has an interest in making waves. First, diverting attention away from the PA's ongoing failure to reach a reconciliation agreement with Hamas to the plight of the Palestinian prisoners creates a much needed issue of consensus. That is apparently why senior Palestinian officials like Qadura Fares and Jibril Rajoub are active behind the scenes in the current protests. Second, in light of the PA's worsening economic situation, controlled clashes with Israel could persuade the Arab world to renew donations to the PA.
Obama's Intifada Welcoming Committee -Jonathan S. Tobin
The whole point of renewed Palestinian unrest is to manufacture a sense of crisis that requires U.S. intervention. Any escalation of violence, no matter how much it is the product of a political decision rather than a popular protest, will generate a lot of negative press for Israel. Even the most restrained measures of Israeli self-defense will be denounced as disproportionate.
But although the Palestinians are certainly capable of churning up enough violence and suffering to get more attention for their cause, their obvious disinclination in making peace on any terms makes it difficult to sustain the interest of even the most sympathetic of foreign leaders. Their refusal to return to the negotiating table with the Israelis even after Obama had pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze West Bank settlement building and their decision to abandon the U.S.-led process in favor of a dead-end bid for UN recognition may have finally made it obvious to the administration that any political capital expended on them would be wasted.
Nor, even under U.S. duress, is there much chance that Israel will consent to a West Bank withdrawal that is likely to duplicate the situation in Gaza, where Hamas terrorists used land vacated by the Israelis to create a terrorist state. This means that while the Palestinians have the capacity to make themselves troublesome, they do not have the ability to take advantage of the good will felt for them by many in the administration.
Another intifada will be a trial for the Israelis and an annoyance for President Obama. But it will be a tragedy for the people of the West Bank. Until they are ready to throw off a leadership that is incapable of ending the conflict or recognizing a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, they will continue to suffer.