With U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the region just a month away, the latest violent Palestinian protests are placing a serious question mark over Obama’s plan to reboot the peace process.
There has been a noticeable increase in fire-bombings and stonings by Palestinians in recent weeks against Israelis.
That has been heightened in February at a time when Palestinian leaders are talking of the possibility of upping action.
Today some 3,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are launching a hunger strike, after one of their number died on Saturday, seemingly from a heart attack.
Just days ago, leading Palestinian official Kadoura Fares warned violence would likely increase further if prisoners were not released or one died in an Israeli jail.
“Sometimes the fire starts out small and expands to a large inferno,” he said.
The Palestinians are demanding the release of prisoners, with some leaders wanting to see a major release ahead of any peace talks with Israel.
However, Israel will not release hundreds of prisoners who were behind terror attacks. Many of those the Palestinian Authority wants released either killed Israelis themselves or instructed others to do so.
Despite that, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly recently offered to release some inmates as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas. The latter rejected the offer.
Abbas himself is beginning to talk up a third intifada (popular uprising) although so far he is speaking about a “peaceful intifada” – a concept jointly conceived with Khaled Mashaal, leader of the Iran-backed Hamas terror organization that controls the Gaza Strip.
While the first intifada in the 1980s was largely dominated by popular protests, many of them violent, the second intifada, which began more than a decade ago, was anything but a popular uprising. Thousands of Israeli civilians were killed and wounded in wave after wave of suicide bombings.
Abbas’ remarks, coupled with violent protests in favor of prisoner releases and the ongoing attacks against Israelis are not creating a helpful environment as the various officials planning Obama’s visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah arrive in the Middle East.