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Despite Jerusalem unrest, West Bank remains quiet

The Palestinian Authority’s grip on the West Bank, in coordination with Israel, is preventing any opportunity for the unrest to spread.
Members of Palestinian security forces take position as Palestinian women take part in an anti-Israel protest against what organizers say are recent visits by Jewish activists to al-Aqsa mosque, in the West Bank city of Hebron November 7, 2014. In recent months, a campaign for the prayer ban on Jewish worshippers at the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, to be overturned, led by settler activists, has gathered momentum, raising alarm among Palestinians and Muslims fur

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The West Bank remains quiet despite several months of disturbances and violence in Jerusalem, as the Palestinian Authority (PA) remains determined to prevent an uprising in the West Bank, in coordination with Israeli security services.

The political figures, experts and analysts Al-Monitor spoke with agreed that the PA’s commitment to coordinate the security situation with Israel, and a lack of direct confrontational opportunities with Israeli occupation forces, were hampering any attempt to spread the uprising any further across the West Bank.

Khalida Jarrar, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Al-Monitor that the West Bank was being mobilized and there were daily clashes in the countryside. However, several obstacles impede an uprising in the cities, most importantly the agreements between the PA and Israel.

Meanwhile, Hamas’ representative, Samira Halayqa, told Al-Monitor that the reason for the absence of an uprising is the oppression exercised by the Israeli occupation and the PA against activists in the West Bank.

Hamas accused the security apparatus of constantly arresting activists in an attempt to extinguish any movement against the Israeli occupation and bragging about its power to do so.

A Palestinian security official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Despite Israel’s violations in Jerusalem — which are condemned by the PA — we are reassured that no armed operations would break out in the West Bank. Any such act would spell doom for the Palestinian political status quo. We have strict orders to stifle any opportunity to build a military structure.” The official added, “The accurate security information we have confirms that the Hamas leadership in Gaza is involved in fomenting security troubles in the West Bank by promoting armed operations and attempting to create military cells.”

On the subject of the PA’s role, member of Fatah’s central committee Abbas Zaki told Al-Monitor that the PA had decided to address the world to get an international resolution to end the Israeli occupation, which requires not giving Israel an excuse to destroy the Palestinian status quo.

“We now have unprecedented political power on the international level. Our demands and rights have become clear and the world, which was previously controlled by Israel, is now on our side,” Zaki said.

The PA plans to submit a draft resolution to the UN Security Council to issue a resolution to end the occupation of the Palestinian state before the end of this month.

The Benjamin Netanyahu government has accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence in Jerusalem, despite his repeated “refusal of violence and call for calm,” in light of the continuous reports regarding the security coordination between Israel and the PA.

Former director of the Israeli Internal Security Service, or Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin stated in an article for Yedioth Ahronoth that Abbas and the PA leaders do not encourage the clashes, but are working to end them, belying the narrative told by his government.

Ahmad Jamil Azem, writer and professor at Birzeit University, told Al-Monitor that the most important factors that were preventing an uprising in the West Bank were the absence of a direct confrontation with the Israeli occupation forces and the presence of an authority that is not interested in an uprising.

Israel’s measures in Jerusalem, where the uprising is continuing, and in the West Bank are not different from the circumstances that led to the first two uprisings. However, an uprising seems far from happening.

Social science researcher Khaled Odetallah told Al-Monitor that the Palestinians are now waiting for every clash with Israel to turn into an uprising. However, he said, “It is still too early to talk about such a thing since an uprising does not happen automatically — it requires work because it is the outcome of a range of powers that push toward such confrontation.”

“In the Palestinian case, there is a range of powers that are less organized and more spontaneous that are pushing toward this confrontation, while an organized power is pulling the other way. Thus, the outcome of this tug-of-war would determine whether or not this event turns into an uprising,” he said.

Odetallah noted that the Palestinian situation has a special charm given that “its future, and where things could lead, is unpredictable.”

Meanwhile, Zaki said that Palestinian society plays a voluntary role in providing a suitable environment for an upcoming uprising. “National unity and a unified national leadership are a must. The PLO should be restored in a way that all factions would have a qualitative transmission,” he said.

Nashat al-Aqtash, a professor at Birzeit University, thinks that the possibility of a future uprising is difficult. "Israel has succeeded in domesticating Fatah through power and is now trying to domesticate Hamas,” he told Al-Monitor.

“It is impossible for an uprising to break out without Fatah and Hamas since they are the two biggest parties in Palestine. Yet, today, they are interested in keeping calm, paying salaries and working in politics.”

However, Jarrar asserted that despite all the circumstances that theoretically impede the outbreak of an uprising, the Palestinians have proved “they are the ones who have the time and the manner that match the circumstances and situation. We are facing a popular anger heading toward an uprising with different techniques and methods that match the reality without actually knowing its timing.”

Halayqa agreed with Jarrar, saying, “The West Bank is alive and vibrant with confrontations and the biggest movement will happen at any moment now.”

However, Azem described the current events in the West Bank as “local reactions” in light of the lack of a spontaneous and continuous popular movement.

It seems that the outbreak of an uprising in the West Bank is currently out of reach, since there is no political resolution to support it. In addition, there aren’t any major and spontaneous popular movements taking place, ensuring a tense calm continues in the West Bank as Jerusalem boils.

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