An internal Palestinian Authority document leaked to Israeli media has predicted a “third intifada” if US-brokered peace talks fail.
The document, whose contents were reported by the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Radio on Thursday morning, said that if the peace process collapsed, a violent uprising was likely to erupt in the West Bank. Jihadi and Salafi groups were also likely to become more active, possibly by setting up a network of terrorist cells with the intention of carrying out attacks against Israel, the report said.
The report, issued by a Palestinian security agency, also predicted more spontaneous terror attacks if peace talks fail. It recommended that Palestinian Authority security forces draft a plan to control protests if they escalate into riots in order to prevent police from joining the rioting, as they did in the Second Intifada, which began in late 2000 and lasted several years.
The report predicted that Palestinian terror cells would begin transferring their activities into (Israeli-controlled) Area C and areas surrounding Jerusalem, where the presence of both Israeli and Palestinian security forces is meager.
The report also estimated that Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, might secretly renew its military activity in the West Bank if its rift with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party continued.
According to the report, such a tactic by Hamas would receive the backing of Palestinian prisoners released to Gaza in exchange for the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
With regard to terrorist activity against Israel, the report said that Hamas operatives were more likely to carry out shooting attacks than suicide bombings, and that they would attempt to transfer rocket-making knowledge to the West Bank. However, their first priority was said to be capturing Israelis, either citizens or soldiers, and keeping them captive in the West Bank in hopes of reaching a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel.
The report said that Palestinian public opinion favored such activity due to the prospect of future prisoner releases and the persistent lack of a peace agreement.
It warned that Palestinian youths and students living abroad, particularly in countries with a significant al-Qaeda presence, might be targets for radicalization. Similarly, the report warned that Palestinians fighting alongside jihadi elements in Syria might return to the West Bank and establish al-Qaeda cells there.
The Palestinian report also addressed the Shiite Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, which it said would try to set up sleeper cells in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel proper by recruiting abroad.
Last week, the European Union’s envoy to Israel warned that if peace talks with the Palestinians failed, Israel was likely get blamed for it due to construction in West Bank settlements.
In a weekend interview with the Hebrew-language Walla news website, Lars Faaborg-Andersen laid out potential consequences of the government’s expected announcement this week of further settlement construction.
Faaborg-Andersen said he had made it clear to Israeli officials that such an announcement could seriously damage the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and in such a case Israel could expect to take the rap. The envoy added that a similar sentiment had been relayed by the ambassadors of the major European powers.
Last Wednesday, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was planning to announce the government’s approval for construction of 1,400 new homes in Jewish communities in East Jerusalem (600) and the West Bank (800). Channel 10 said the prime minister was going ahead with the announcement despite the station’s assessment that the last such announcement, which coincided with the second phase of Palestinian prisoner releases, almost caused the collapse of peace talks. It said the US and EU had both urged him not to go ahead with the plan, to no avail.
This week, though, official sources indicated that Netanyahu was delaying such an announcement until after US Secretary of State John Kerry’s current visit.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority restarted in July under US tutelage after a break of several years. The nine-month negotiation period agreed on by the two sides is set to end in April.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.