The Second Intifada Continues

What happened and why?

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The Violence Continues

Even the Palestinian attempt to tar Israel with accusations that it massacred civilians in the West Bank town of Jenin at the height of that operation failed. International researchers eventually concluded that the Israeli version, according to which only about 50 armed Palestinians had been killed in fierce fighting that also cost the lives of 23 Israelis, was true--as opposed to the Palestinian claim that up to 500 civilians had been slaughtered by Israeli forces. While there are varying accounts on the exact number of Palestinians killed in the fighting there, they are all in the range of about 50 to 56. All observers agree most of them were armed combatants.

In the early spring of 2003, the second Intifada, while far from ending, appeared to have entered a period of relative remission, with Israelis enjoying two months without a single suicide bombing. Many Israelis credited the relentless IDF actions for this period of quiet in Israel. Yet a bus bombing in Haifa in the afternoon of March 5, 2003, took the lives of 15 Israeli civilians, wounding 30 more. This came on the heels of intensive IDF operations in the Gaza Strip in which a chief Hamas operative was nabbed, but also more than 20 Palestinian civilians--among them a pregnant woman 10 days away from her due date--were killed. The region seems to be as mired in violence as ever.

As of 2003, the second Intifada appeared to have achieved little of substance for the Palestinians. Israel was certainly hurt on numerous levels, with its economy suffering, its tourism industry brought to a halt, its image in Europe tarnished, and hundreds of civilian casualties suffered. But at the same time the Palestinian economy was shattered close to the point of non-existence and Palestinian casualties numbered in the thousands. Not one Israeli settlement had been removed or relocated after two and a half years of armed conflict, but what had been an autonomous Palestinian entity in the West Bank had all but disappeared in the face of a renewed Israeli occupation, with Israeli troops patrolling Palestinian towns at will. Palestinian leaders were no longer welcome in Washington, D.C., and were instead mentioned by American officials as potentially subject to 'regime change.'

As the violence continued with the dream of an independent Palestinian state becoming all the more distant, there was some questioning by some Palestinian leaders--most notably Abu Mazan--of the wisdom of armed conflict. And Palestinian leaders Sari Nussibeh and Hanan Ashwari published a petition with 500 signatories denouncing the suicide bombing on practical rather than moral grounds. However, an honest and widespread public reckoning of where the second Intifada was headed and what goals were in Palestinian society did not appear to have occurred.

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Ziv Hellman is a Jerusalem-based writer and mathematician. A former editor at the Jerusalem Post, Ziv was a founding member of Peace Watch--the watchdog group reporting on the implementation of the Oslo Agreements. He also led the Israeli elections observer team evaluating the Palestinian Authority elections.