Amid rumors of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks hitting an impasse, and two days after Hamas called for a new violent uprising against Israel, a former head of the Shin Bet security agency warned Monday of the likelihood of a “Palestinian Arab Spring.”
“All of the conditions exist in our situation for the Palestinian masses to rise up,” Yuval Diskin told a conference at the Finance Ministry’s Budget Division. “In the West Bank, the intense tension and frustration is worsening among the Palestinians, who feel that their land is being stolen from them, that the state they strive for is getting further away, and the economy is no longer something that they can take comfort in.”
Diskin also called for Israel’s neighbors to be given an active role in the negotiations with the Palestinians.
“We must bring in Egypt and Jordan to the early stages of the negotiation process. Their entrance into this story will give [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas legitimacy to make critical decisions.”
Diskin struck a pessimistic note about Israelis’ confidence in the prospects of peace with the Palestinians. “It is also clear,” he said, that there was no chance of the Israeli public demanding a push for the peace process, “at least according to the political picture that emerges at the moment.”
The comments come three months into renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Only US Secretary of State John Kerry is authorized to report on progress at the negotiations, but insiders have been quoted repeatedly in Israeli and Palestinian media as saying that little headway is being made and no breakthrough appears imminent, and each side is blaming the other for the impasse.
Still, on Saturday Abbas told German TV that peace talks were moving ahead, and on Sunday chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni said she was confident in the talks.
The negotiations have come under scrutiny from both sides recently, with some Palestinians officials publicly branding them as fruitless and some Israeli politicians calling to suspend them in the wake of a series of terror attacks in the West Bank over the last month. Nonetheless, reports Monday said Netanyahu would be approving the second of four phases of Palestinian prisoner releases next week, as agreed within the framework of the renewed talks.
On Saturday, the Gaza-based Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called for Palestinians to wage a “popular uprising” in the West Bank. Urging a renewal of intifada “resistance,” Haniyeh praised the “heroic martyrs” responsible for a series of recent terrorist attacks in the West Bank, in which two soldiers were killed, a retired army colonel was bludgeoned to death, and a nine-year-old girl was shot and lightly injured. In the latest suspected terrorist attack, on Thursday, a Palestinian man rammed a tractor through the gate of an army base north of Jerusalem and was shot dead by IDF forces.
Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report.