Ariel Sharon provokes a reaction by visiting the Temple Mount
Ariel Sharon, the opposition leader (Likud party – right wing, hardline) – the man held by the UN as indirectly responsible for the massacres of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatila in 1982 – visited the Temple Mount. His visit coincided with the failure of the Camp David talks. Thousands of Palestinians protested. The protest were met with tear gas and rubber bullets and fighting quickly turned into a Second Intifada – more violent and brutal than the first, borne more of despair than of hope.
The Second Intifada, 2000-05
A minidocumentary by Unpacked history can be found here – unfortunately it is age-restricted and only available on You Tube
This time suicide bombing became a key feature of the behavior which was led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Many Palestinians had been inspired by the events of 9/11. Islamic Jihad was funded by Iran. A competition developed between different groups – such as the PFLP, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades to outdo one another.
Israel’s response – OPERATION DEFENSIVE SHIELD and SEPARATION WALL
- Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister in 2001 on a promise of ‘security and peace’ but the violence continued, culminating in the ‘Black March’ of 2002 when suicide bombings, shootings ad knife attacks killed 111 Israeli civilians and injured a further 560.
- Sharon ordered Operation Defensive Shield – which involved reoccupation of the six largest Palestinian cities in the West Bank, the imposition of curfews and mass arrests and violent suppression resulting in 500 Palestinian fatalities and 1500 injured.
- Arafat’s own presidential compound in Ramallah was bombed; Arafat had to be airlifted to France to receive medical treatment in October 2004.
- In June 2002 – Sharon ordered the construction of a massive ‘security fence’ or ‘separation wall’ to keep Palestinian terrorists out of Israel. It reduced the number of suicide bombings immediately. It grew to 708 km in length; most of it consists of a 60 meter ‘exclusion zone’ (a bit like the Berlin Wall), complete with barbed wires, fortifications and guard posts. Where Jews and Palestinians live in close proximity the barrier can be as much as 8 meters high.
The impact of the Second Intifada
On Palestinians –
- 5000 deaths; thousands more injured and arrested;
- Economic collapse – by 2005 60% of Palestinians were living in poverty
- Widespread homelessness due to IDF destruction;
- Internal travel extremely difficult because of road blocks; 12% of farmers were separated from their own farmland;
- Operation Defensive Shield involved the loss of paperwork and computers.
- 1,063 deaths (731 civilian), 8,800 wounded;
- Economic damage – collapse of tourism; by 2005 10% unemployment and 30% in poverty;
- Psychological damage of suicide bombing;
- Negative publicity.
Roadmap for peace, 2003
- In 2001, under the shadow of the World Trade Centre Attacks –Israeli and Palestinian delegations held talks at Taba in Egypt. Each side accused the other of sabotaging the implementation of the Oslo accords. The Taba Accords laid out the parameters for a resolution.
- In 2002 Saudi Arabia proposed a plan that came to beknow as the Arab Peace initiative, which received the unanimous approval of the Arab League, meeting in Beruit: it promised Israel would receive regional recognition and that its relations with the Arab world would be normalized.
- The Quartet Group – (America, the European Union, Russia and the UN) issued the ‘Road Map’, a three-stage plan for creating an independent Palestine. Prominent Israeli and Palestinian politicians, many of whom had participated in the Camp David summit, launch the Geneva Initiative aimed at a comprehensive agreement.
- Phase 1 – Palestinians to end violence and hand over weapons; Israel to freeze all settlement building and pull out from any built since 2000.
- Phase 2 – Conference to establish a democratic and sovereign Palestinian state
- Phase 3 – discussions to be held about Jerusalem’s status and the Palestinians right to return
- Sharon refused to negotiate with Arafat so the latter reluctantly agreed to appoint Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian Prime Minister and spokesman. The two met with US President George W. Bush and agreed a roadmap that was immediately rejected by Arafat.
- In 2004, The International Court of Justice called for an end to the illegal situation resulting from the wall and its associated regime. Arafat died in a Paris hospital on November 11 and was replaced as president of the Palestinian Authority by Mahmoud Abbas
- Talks were resumed and, with the promise of $50 million worth of aid, militant Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire. Israeli troops were withdrawn from Palestinian cities and prisoners were exchanged.
- By February 2005, the Intifada was over.
2005 Disengagement – Ariel Sharon evacuates all settlements in the Gaza Strip
- In February 2005 the Knesset agreed that Israel would pull out of the Gaza Strip – the ‘disengagement plan’ and it was put into action. By September 2005 Israel finally pulled out of the Gaza strip, with its 8000 Jewish settlers relocated and compensated.
Why the Roadmap ultimately failed – internal divisions on both sides
The Roadmap and Disengagement no doubt helped bring an end to the Intifada in 2005. However, in the long run it failed to produce a permanent solution.
- Sharon lost support within Likud and founded a new party called Kadima or ‘forward’.
- Sharon suffered a massive stroke in January 2006; and hardliners refused to consider withdrawing from the West Bank, where 400,000 Jewish settlers now lived and refused to surrender even a part of Jerusalem.
- More importantly Hamas won control of the Palestinian Assembly elections in 2006 – and refused to attend the Roadmap talks; rockets were fired into Israel (over 1000, in the first half of 2006).
- The inability of Fatah and Hamas to work together led to violence on the streets – particularly in Gaza.
- On 14th June 2007, Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza and took control.
- USA, Russia, European Union and the UN all imposed sanctions to stop foreign aid to the PNA because all saw Hamas as a terrorist organization.
- Israel and Egypt began a blockade of all road, rail, airspace and territorial sea routes into Gaza allowing only essential medial aid. Buffer zones imposed by Israel on Gazean territory and sea have reduced Gaza’s arable land by as much as 30% according to the UN.
The Gaza War, 2008-9
- Palestinian militants abducted Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit (released in 2011 in exchange for release of Palestinian prisoners) and in response Israel launched Operation Summer Rains on 28th June 2006.
- Israel mobilized thousands of troops as a response to Qassam rocket attacks (largely ineffective ‘home-made’ rockets);
- on Israel and because of the discovery of illegal tunnels under the border of the Gaza strip and Egypt.
- February 2008 IDF Operation ‘Hot Winter’ in killed 112 Palestinians and injured 150 more; 3 Israelis were killed and injured.
- There was widespread international alarm at the scale of the operation, with the US state department encouraging Israel to exercise caution to avoid the loss of innocent life, and the European Union and the United Nations criticising Israel’s “disproportionate use of force”.
- The European Union also demanded an immediate end to Palestinian militant rocket attacks on Israel and urged Israel to halt activities that endanger civilians, saying they were “in violation of international law.
- Failure of talks initiated by Egypt in Summer 2008;
- Election of Barak Obama in November 2008 – a less hawkish presence in the White House – meant that if Israel was going to take action it should do it before President Bush was replaced in January.
- Began with operation ‘cast lead’ when IDF airstrikes in Gaza hit 100 pre-planned targets.
- A second wave of attacks a half hour later included Hamas HQ, Government offices and 24 police stations.
- 225 Palestinians died and Hamas responded with rocket attacks.
- 3 January – Israeli ground invasion of Gaza designed to destroy tunnels and rocket making equipment.
- 4000 homes, 600 factories, 24 mosques, 8 hospitals, roads, bridges and UNRWA facilities were destroyed.
- 1000 Palestinians killed; 1/3rd of these were children (in part because of Hamas human-shield tactics).
- Only 13 Israelis were killed; but Israel was slaughtered in the media for using unnecessary force and even illegal weapons like white phosphorous.
- Hamas soon resumed rocket attacks.
There are several key reasons why, despite the awareness of what a solution would look like, it was not achieved by 2012 and why the prospects for its achievement remain elusive.
- On the Palestinian side, the inability of Palestine’s two leading representatives – Hamas and Fatah – to work together was one of the most significant barriers to the achievement of peace.
- In addition, Hamas’s refusal to recognise Israel and Israel’s refusal to negotiate with Hamas was another key problem – even if Fatah wanted to work with Hamas, any attempt to do so would jeopardise talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
- On the Israeli side divisions between moderates and hardliners makes negotiation more difficult. The persistent efforts of Likud governments to facilitate further Israeli occupation of the West Bank means that ‘facts on the ground’ made the possibility of a return to pre-1967 borders (the ‘green line’) increasingly difficult.
- Violence used by either side tends to strengthen support for the hardliners on the other side – making the violence self-perpetuating.