By Charlie WOLF
When Air Force One touches down in Israel next Wednesday, it will be the first time she has landed there since she ferried George W. Bush to the Jewish State in May 2008 – and the first time as president for Barack Obama, some 1,520 days into his time in office.
This time, Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system will be on display when the aircraft arrives at the airport. This is more than just a PR move to show off the Israeli-developed and US-funded system. Israeli officials are worried the Obama visit could spark a third Palestinian intifada.
According to Adam Kredo, writing in the Washington Free Beacon, unrest has been growing in the Palestinian territories ahead of Obama’s visit, which starts on March 20.
Firebombs have been thrown at police by worshippers inside the al-Aqsa Mosque, a potential hotspot for a return to violence, especially if Obama were to visit the holy spot. This was the putative excuse for what Arabs term the al-Aqsa intifada of September 2000, after Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount. It was nothing of the sort. Months later, PA communications minister Imad Faluji admitted the violence was planned in July, some three months before the visit.
“The Palestinians have not said the final word yet, and we expect there will be attempts to take advantage of the upcoming events, like the visit by Barack Obama, to continue the violence,” Israel public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovich was quoted as saying on Monday by news outlet Arutz Sheva.
To be fair, Mahmoud Abbas does not want this, but Hamas, which is in a power struggle with the PA, has been promoting the idea. Hamas operatives, according to reports, are based in the West Bank and Israeli intelligence officials are reported to have “uncovered a Hamas terrorist network in Hebron,” Kredo reports. This is a dangerous situation for Abbas; a Hamas-engineered intifada would be as much against him and his weak grip on power, as it would be against the Israelis.
“We call on the masses of the Palestinian people to change this path and demonstrate against receiving he who considers Israel ‘the closest ally in the region,’ and to refuse the return to futile negotiations,” a spokesman for the youth group Palestinians for Dignity said on Monday, according to Palestinian Ma’an news agency.
Besides the current unrest at al-Aqa, there has been an upsurge of violence in the West Bank and at checkpoints in the northern portion of Gaza, involving stones, Molotov cocktails and a number of riots. Islamic militants in Egypt have also begun launching military drills that include the firing of long-range missiles. One rocket, fired from Sinai, bordering the Israeli south, travelled 28 miles and landed in the desert, leaving a large crater, according to Ma’an news. This may be why Israel reportedly moved her missile defence system to the airport.
Obama will find out one doesn’t need to go to the Temple Mount (Judaism’s holiest place of worship) to give Palestinians an excuse to riot. The Palestinians, who may be planning simple demonstrations to take advantage of his visit in front of the world’s media, may find they spark a flame that cannot be controlled, with Obama finding he has more in common with Benjamin Netanyahu than he previously thought.
It is instructional to note that when the 2000 intifada was pre-planned that July, it was just after Yassir Arafat’s return from Camp David when he “turned the tables on the former US president and rejected the US conditions” (Mitchell Bard, Myths & Facts, p250). Arafat had scorned overtures of land and of peace then and instead used it as an excuse to start a brutal uprising.
So it is the same today. Obama may learn the hard way from his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories that the Palestinians – Hamas in their power struggle with the PA to be sure - are neither interested in land nor in peace. In fact, peace to Hamas is an anathema and any overtures to violence on its part are not the result of Israel’s actions, the “stealing of land”, visits to holy places, or conditions in Gaza.
Instead any violence or possible sparking of another uprising is a direct response to any peace initiative on the part of the president or the Israelis. Hamas will scurry from even the thought of peace quicker than cockroaches from light.