There are many signs that the Palestinian Authority is seeking to escalate tensions in the West Bank ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the region next month.
Although the P.A. probably does not want an all-out confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis now, some P.A. officials in Ramallah believe that a “mini-intifada” would serve the Palestinians’ interests, especially on the eve of Obama’s visit.
The officials hope that scenes of daily clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank will prompt Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to make far-reaching concessions to the P.A.
This is why the P.A. leadership has been encouraging its constituents lately to wage a “popular intifada” against Israel, each time finding another excuse to initiate confrontations between Palestinians and Israel.
Now the P.A. is using the issue of Palestinian prisoners who are on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons as an excuse to call for street protests and clashes with the Israel Defense Forces.
In recent days, dozens of Palestinian protesters have been injured in clashes with IDF soldiers in various parts of the West Bank. The protests are being held in solidarity with four hunger strikers.
Before that, the P.A. used the issue of settlements as a reason to call for widespread protests in the West Bank.
Before that, the P.A. leadership encouraged Palestinians to protest against Israeli “plans” to destroy the Aqsa Mosque and replace it with the Third Temple.
By encouraging a “popular intifada,” P.A. leaders are hoping to bring the Palestinian issue back to the top of the agenda of the U.S. administration and Israel.
P.A. officials have in recent months expressed concern over the lack of interest in the Palestinian issue both in the United States and Israel.
The Palestinians have been absent from speeches delivered by Obama over the past few months, and the majority of parties that ran in the last Israeli elections did not even mention the Palestinian issue.
But now that all eyes are once again turned toward the Middle East in anticipation of Obama’s planned visit, the P.A. is working hard to draw the world’s attention to the Palestinian issue, and hoping to achieve its goal by encouraging clashes between Palestinian protesters and the IDF and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
Although the violence has so far remained on a low flame, it is expected to intensify as the date of Obama’s visit approaches.
The belief in the P.A. is that the violence on the ground will push Obama to exert pressure on the Israeli government to comply with the Palestinian conditions for resuming the peace process, namely a full cessation of settlement construction and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
There is also talk in Ramallah about organizing demonstrations during Obama’s visit to the West Bank, where he is scheduled to meet with P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas. The demonstrations will be held to protest against U.S. “bias” in favor of Israel.
The P.A. leadership is hoping that the anti-U.S. protests will scare Obama and force him to exert even more pressure on Israel.
The P.A.’s message to Obama: You must act quickly against Israel before things get out of hand.
It now remains to be seen whether Obama is aware of this attempt to put pressure on him, or whether he will continue to turn a blind eye to the P.A.’s new-old tactic of initiating an escalation with the hope of extracting concessions from the United States and Israel.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Arab, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades, including for The Jerusalem Post since 2002. Originally published by the Gatestone Institute, www.gatestoneinstitute.org .