Skip to main content

Palestinians prepare 'diplomatic intifada'

With Israel preoccupied with elections and the Arab world preoccupied with fighting the Islamic State, the Palestinians feel sidelined and are looking to launch a "diplomatic intifada."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attend a Gaza reconstruction conference in Cairo October 12, 2014. Egypt, which brokered a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza after a 50-day war, used a reconstruction conference in Cairo on Sunday to call for a wider peace deal based on a 2002 Arab initiative.  REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR49UU5

Palestinians have always felt like the forgotten and neglected party in the Middle East — not a state, occupied by Israel and sidelined by the Arabs. Abu Alaa (Ahmed Qurei), the former Palestinian prime minister and chief negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accord, recited once in Oslo an Indian poem: "I am alone, you are alone, let's be alone together."

Well, 21 years later, Palestinians and Israelis still sense their isolation but separately. On this note, a senior Fatah official in Ramallah told Al-Monitor that the Palestinian leadership feels completely sidelined these days, both in the region and within the international community: "In Israel, the Palestinian issue is the forgotten issue of the elections, even by the left, and in the United States, there seems to be little political will to engage on permanent status after the elections. Meanwhile, the European Union is too weak to move alone on Palestinian statehood and the Arab countries are focusing almost solely on the challenges that the Islamic State [IS] poses to them in the wars in Syria and Iraq as well as the Iranian challenge."

According to this official, the Palestinian leadership is contemplating how to deal with this situation. He claims that the region and the world will hear about Palestine in two forms come April 2015. The first new front line would be a "diplomatic intifada," calling on international and regional frameworks for conflict resolution and statehood, based on international law. This diplomatic attack will be followed by a nonviolent popular intifada that will combine more demonstrations around settlements, the separation wall and East Jerusalem.

He said, "This is the time for independence either by diplomacy as a kind of a war of independence."

Talks I held in Ramallah led to the impression that the Palestinian leadership feels a sense of desperation from the evaporation of the Palestinian issue. On the other hand, there is awareness about the need for self-reliance, taking their destiny into their own hands. Given this mood, there are many in the Fatah leadership that openly prefer a Likud Party victory in the upcoming March 17 Israeli elections. In a turn-about way, they believe that a government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett would make both strategies of diplomacy and nonviolent intifada more effective.

Accordingly to the Fatah official, the only country that projects to the Palestinians a sense of solidarity and responsibility nowadays is Egypt.

A senior Egyptian official who is posted at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo told Al-Monitor that both Egypt and the Arab League are poised to launch a diplomatic campaign in favor of Palestinian statehood once the next Israeli government is formed. According to the source, who is closely linked to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, such a campaign would consist of several components.

The source explained that an essential component and condition for such a campaign would be the weakening of Hamas in Gaza through stricter control of the Rafah crossing and through efforts to politically delegitimize it. The campaign will also consist of lobbying the Gulf countries for economic assistance to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

These measures should facilitate efforts at the highest levels to coordinate with the United States an international framework for peace talks based on the Arab Peace Initiative and conditioned on a full freeze of settlements. It would also require coordination with the leading EU countries on a draft proposal — possible language for a new UN Security Council resolution that would serve as a terms of reference for any such peace process.

The campaign will include issuing a warning to the next Israeli government that, while the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is considered a strategic asset and interest by Cairo, it might be endangered by an Israeli refusal to move toward a permanent status agreement within a reasonable period of time.

The official added that both the Egyptian and Arab League leaderships were coordinated with Abbas, and would like to offer him a horizon of hope to prevent violent deterioration. This Egyptian policy is part of a more regional strategy designed to secure anew Egypt's leading role in the Arab world, also in fighting Islamic terrorism (Hamas and IS), while presenting a nationalistic image on the pivotal Palestinian issue.

When asked about these positions of Cairo and the Arab League, the Ramallah official said that the Palestinians are indeed fully in the picture, and that Abbas considers the relationship with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a strategic axis for the advancement of Palestinian statehood. From Abbas' diplomatic point of view, the centerpiece should be the Arab Peace Initiative, legitimizing any pragmatic Palestinian policies.

Be that as it may, the Israeli government is currently focused on cutting the losses on the Congress speech fiasco of the prime minister. It is clear, even to Likud ministers, that relations with President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have been severely damaged. And from that angle, the situation does not bode well for US-Israeli coordination after the elections in the wake of the already planned Cairo-Ramallah initiatives.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Palestine Briefing Palestine Briefing

Palestine Briefing

Top Palestine stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial