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Ira Sharkansky


Is the Intifada Over?,  July21, 2005

By Ira Sharkansky
Can one sense the end of the intafada?
Despite more than a few hiccups, there are some good signs. We seem to have gotten through the rain storm of missiles on Sderot, most likely because Hamas perceived that the IDF was ready to do a lot of damage. So far Israel's tanks and troops have not invaded Gaza, and current guessing is that the action will not occur at this time. Hamas may have gotten he message from the assemblage of Israeli power, and the willingness of Israel to use the tool of targeted killings against bad guys in Gaza and the West Bank for the first time in several months.
No less promising are the actions of the Palestine National Authority. Mahmoud Abbas' statements against terror have been more serious than those of Yassir Arafat. A few fighters of Hamas and the Palestine National Authority have died in recent days. This is not yet a civil war. It is a warning of what might happen, and is likely to have contributed to the lessening of missile attacks.
Things are still dicey, and can deteriorate. Hamas continues to bombard Jewish settlement in Gaza, but not in Israel proper, like Sderot. If one of those things kills an Israeli within Gaza, the game is likely to change.
Perhaps I am wearing my rose colored glasses, but these actions suggest that both the current leadership of the Palestine National Authority and Hamas recognize what Israel can do to them if they exceed the admittedly loose rules of the game (if you don't kill us we won't kill you). The mention of rose colored glasses may bring forth ridicule from the civilized world, but here they are essential survival equipment. They help us get to the next disappointment, in the hope that in the long run (i.e., before we are dead) things are getting better.
The last couple of days our television screens have been filled with pictures of many thousand, mostly religious Jews crammed into a small space, kept by the police from marching to Gaza. Most have now gone home, reiterating that they love the army and police that kept them from realizing their mission. Some of them say they will be back next week after a rest at home. The heat and humidity did their part to sap the demonstration. It could have ended a lot worse. Lots of families brought little kids and babies. It made for good press, but added to the danger. Occasionally we heard screeching speeches meant to incite followers. As far as we know, no one was trampled by a packed mob, and no one died of dehydration. The expressions of love for the army and police remind us that few Israelis are more patriotic than the settlers and their supporters. Their intensity is one of our weapons. Like other weapons, however, it can inflict great damage on those using it.
One wonders when the settlers and supporters will realize that they have lost.  What we continue to hear is that the evil government will come to its senses; that decisions to withdraw settlements are not legal, moral, Jewish, or democratic.
If intensity could count, the settlers and their supporters would have won. The Cabinet and Knesset majorities, the police and army would admit their loss and go home. But it does not work that way. For many, decisions about withdrawal were not wise, but they have been declared proper by the Supreme Court. That is the best we have for determining legality and being in keeping with democratic procedures. As far as being moral or Jewish, only a greater power can decide . No one down here is willing to let someone else decide those issues finally.
The actual withdrawal of settlements is not scheduled to begin until August 15th. A lot can still go wrong. And after the withdrawal? Palestinians aspire to a state with generous borders. Israelis are not ready for that. We had better not misplace those rose colored glasses.

Sharkansky is a member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem