`Intifadah' Reignites in West Bank Palestinians Are Organizing a Resistance Campaign to Expanding Jewish Settlements, Which, They Claim, Are Casting a Pall over the Israeli-PLO Peace Accord

By John Battersby, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 1995 | Go to article overview

`Intifadah' Reignites in West Bank Palestinians Are Organizing a Resistance Campaign to Expanding Jewish Settlements, Which, They Claim, Are Casting a Pall over the Israeli-PLO Peace Accord


John Battersby, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE latest focus of Palestinian resistance against Israel - expansion of Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank - has begun to overshadow the 16-month-old peace process here.

"It's a make or break point," says Hanan Ashrawi, the former Palestine Liberation Organization spokeswoman who now heads an organization that monitors human rights issues in the Palestinian self-rule areas.

Today, Palestinians will hold protest marches near three West Bank settlements, including in Hebron, where Jewish zealots maintain a symbolic settlement in the center of the Palestinian town.

The campaign is taking root throughout the West Bank, and some civil-rights workers and diplomats see it as the early stages of a second "intifadah" - the 1987 Palestinian uprising.

Just as that intifadah paved the way for the peace accord with Israel, Palestinian leaders are hoping that a renewed grass-roots campaign will bolster their efforts to negotiate a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Two peoples claim one land

In recent weeks, Palestinian farmers have begun planting olive trees on vacant land close to Jewish settlements, and plans are being discussed to stage symbolic "occupations" of confiscated lands.

"It's not even a political issue ... it's a visceral issue," Mrs. Ashrawi says. "In a land-for-peace equation, it is quite clear that without the land, there can be no peace."

Western diplomats fear that violence will increase even with a "peaceful" resistance campaign.

Under the 1993 accord, it was agreed that the final status of West Bank settlements and Jerusalem would be the subject of negotiations due to begin in May 1996 and must be finalized by 1999.

But Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin undertook to halt the expansion of "political" settlements - those that are created to frustrate the return of Arab land - rather than those created to further Israel's security effort.

At meetings in the self-ruled Jericho area and the West Bank town of Ramallah last week, a wide spectrum of Palestinian groups reached a rare consensus to resist the expansion of settlements and win Arab and international support for the cause.

Representatives of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, are party to the consensus, but militant Hamas leaders have indicated that they will go further.

The Hamas plan will include acts of sabotage against settlements, including the destruction of water pipes and the slashing of electric border fences.

Leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) - set up to administer Palestinian self-rule - are divided over how far the campaign should go. But PA Planning Minister Nabil Shaath insists that Palestinians are committed to a peaceful resistance.

Palestinian leaders argue that Israel has contravened the spirit of the accord by failing to halt the expansion of settlements that have grown by more than 5 percent since the accord was signed.

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