Tensions Heat Up in Israel and the West Bank
Suicide bombers in crowds, Molotov cocktails hitting police officers, snipers on rooftops—these and other brutalities come to mind upon hearing the word “intifada.” The Arabic word for “uprising,” intifada describes the violent Palestinian insurrections against Israel from 1987 to 1993 and from 2000 to 2005. These two sustained terrorist campaigns have scarred people for life, so some recent headlines are making Israelis—and Palestinians—nervous.
- “The Third Intifada?” (Foreign Affairs, February 7)
- “The U.S. Fears a Third Intifada” (Jewish News Syndicate, February 8)
- “Does Deadly Week in Israel Raise Prospect of Third Intifada?” (Times, January 29)
Tensions have been flaring between the Israel Defense Forces (idf) and Arabs both within Israel and in the West Bank. The idf has been launching anti-terror operations in the West Bank. And the Arabs’ reactions to these raids have been vicious.
On January 2, the idf clashed with Palestinians at the West Bank town of Kafr Dan when the idf went to demolish three apartments that belonged to the families of radicals who killed an Israeli soldier four months ago. The idf claims its people were attacked first. Palestinians reportedly fired guns and firebombs on the soldiers. In the ensuing shootout, two Palestinians died. One was claimed by the terror group Hamas; the other by the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the military wing of the West Bank’s ruling Fatah faction.
On January 26, Israel carried out a raid in the West Bank refugee camp at Jenin. The Israelis were going after three terrorists affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (pij). The shootout lasted about three hours with nine Palestinians killed. The idf claims it killed all three of the pij militants. Hamas claimed four gunmen who were also killed.
The next evening, on January 27—during the Jewish Sabbath—an Arab gunman opened fire at a synagogue in Jerusalem. He killed eight people. This is Jerusalem’s deadliest terror attack since 2008. The gunman, Khaire Alkam, was killed by police later that evening. January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The following day, a 13-year-old Arab in Jerusalem shot and injured two others. No terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack.
On February 6, the idf conducted a raid at the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho in the West Bank. They were looking for two gunmen who attempted a mass shooting at a nearby restaurant. A shootout killed five gunmen, including the pair the idf was looking for. The pair was thought to be affiliated with Hamas. Five days later, a terrorist drove a car into a Jerusalem bus stop, killing two. An off-duty detective shot and killed him.
Everybody’s eyes are on Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Both sides are digging in their heels, and the risk of a third intifada is very real. But there are deeper issues at play here. A sign of how deep these issues are showed itself in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian Authority has varying degrees of rule over different parts of the West Bank as a quasi-independent government under Abbas. After the Jenin raid, Abbas announced he would suspend security cooperation with Israel. As per the 1990s Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is supposed to cooperate with Israeli authorities in counterterrorism. Abbas suspended it once before in 2020 but soon backpedaled. It is unknown how long he intends to suspend cooperation this time around. Israeli media cited Abbas claiming to the United States that cooperation was only partially suspended and could be restored.
Abbas also declared three days of mourning for those shot in Jenin.
Abbas belongs to Fatah, a socialist organization founded by Yasser Arafat. Fatah is considered a relatively more moderate faction. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihan are both Iran-sponsored Islamist groups. Hamas and pij are competitors but have the same goal of annihilating the Jewish state.
Many of the latest confrontations pit Israel against Hamas and pij. Nobody is expecting Abbas to like the idf conducting raids in “his” territory. But one would think he would appreciate the elimination of his rivals—especially when he isn’t the one doing the eliminating, and therefore doesn’t take the blame. Instead, he is escalating tensions further.
Abbas took power under a democratic mandate in 2005 but has since ruled the Palestinian Authority under a perpetual “four-year term.” He is 87 and doesn’t appear ready to give up the reins anytime soon. He has transformed Fatah from a radical revolutionary group into “the new old guard.” His regime is similar to those led by Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. Discontent with these men’s rules toppled them from power. With the West Bank’s extreme political polarization, Abbas’s hold on power is even more tenuous than Mubarak’s and Qadhafi’s were.
Too much inaction may reinforce the perception many have that Abbas is a stooge of the Israelis. His actions may be a desperate attempt to market himself to Palestinians as “one of them.”
Fatah and Hamas are at relative peace—for now. But the two sides have had violent skirmishes with each other in the past. And Abbas knows that if the idf were to depart and leave a power vacuum, Hamas would quickly fill it and his regime would soon become history.
It may be more appropriate, then, to see Abbas’s actions not as him putting his foot down but backpedaling to Hamas. If Hamas had little power, he would have little reason to do this. This—and the recent violent skirmishes—suggests Hamas’s influence in the West Bank is larger than meets the eye.
The Trumpet forecasts a radical shift in Palestinian politics, based on a prophecy in Zechariah 14: “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (verses 1-2).
The prophecy dates to the “day of the Lord,” the time just before the return of Jesus Christ (see Joel 2:31 and Matthew 24:29-30). Notice that one of the signs of the Day of the Lord’s imminency is half of Jerusalem being taken captive.
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in his booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy:
One half of Jerusalem is to be taken captive. Notice how specific this prophecy is. East Jerusalem—one half of the city—will be conquered by the Palestinians! … Today the Arabs live in roughly one half of Jerusalem. They just don’t control it—yet. When such an attack occurs, the Jews couldn’t effectively drop bombs, especially nuclear bombs, on one half of their own city.
In several television programs in 2006, Mr. Flurry pointed to this prophecy being fulfilled through Hamas getting control of the West Bank.
Many in the Middle East and around the world are pressuring Israel to sign away East Jerusalem. Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah have been willing to play the long game in hopes that Israel would voluntarily give up the city. Zechariah 14, however, does not imply a peaceful transition of power but a violent takeover. And this implies a regime more radical than Abbas’s controlling Ramallah.
This may sound pessimistic. Prophecy does reveal a lot of “doom and gloom” for Israel in the short term. But the same Bible points to a bright future beyond the storm. As bad as the situation in Israel may seem, there is great cause for hope. To learn more, please request a free copy of Jerusalem in Prophecy.