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
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
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
"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
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. …