Last week IDF soldiers were attacked in two West Bank locales, on Thursday in Hebron and on Friday in the village of Kadum. In both instances, throngs of Palestinian protesters threw stones at them and put the soldiers’ lives in danger. Nevertheless, the soldiers held their fire and took up alternate positions (that’s IDF lingo for withdrawing) without engaging the Palestinians. This to the consternation of always trigger happy Minister of the Interior Eli Yishai and much of the public as well. Nobody likes to see our soldiers humiliated. They were expected to use their guns to teach those pesky Palestinians a lesson they wouldn’t forget, a lesson that possibly could have cost a few Palestinian lives.

It is extremely fortunate that the soldiers who were put into these situations by an ignorant and stubborn government had the common sense to withdraw without firing a shot. By doing so they gave us a timely warning of what will be in store for us in the coming months, if not earlier.

Inspired by the warming relations between Fatah and Hamas, egged on by international support and the universal condemnation of Israel over the planned E-1 expansion and still glowing over Hamas’ shelling of Tel-Aviv, the Palestinians are just about ready for a new intifada. They have certainly internalized the sad truth that Israel doesn’t budge towards negotiations unless real force is applied.

While Netanyahu doesn’t comprehend why the world isn’t condemning Haled Mashal’s provocative speeches in Gaza and rather prefers to condemn Israel over the E-1 folly, the Palestinians are getting ready for another round, regardless of Abu Mazen’s promises not to engage in violence. Israel has effectually disabled him politically and he is not really in charge anymore. Not even in the West-Bank.  If indeed violence breaks out, he won’t be blamed by anyone except Israel.

Everybody sees the writing on the wall. Even the simple soldiers on the front lines with the Palestinian civilian population feel it. That’s why they didn’t shoot. They instinctively knew that they are on a powder keg and the ignition cord is burning. That’s why they disengaged. They set the example. If our government doesn’t follow their lead and sets the stage for a negotiated withdrawal from the territories on our own initiative, we will be forced out by a third intifada. Of course, appearances may be a little different, after all we didn’t give back Sinai in the wake of the the Yom Kippur war.  It took another 9 years but we did give it back as an outcome of that war. Once a new initfada starts, the countdown for withdrawal is on. The Israeli public will not be willing to pay the price of another extended intifada and the world will not sanction the violence that will be required to subdue it.

It will be an irony of history if Netanyahu, the Prime Minister who has done more than any of his predecessors to support the gradual assimilation of the West-Bank into Israel proper (and vice-versa) will be forced to negotiate over the reestablishment of the 1967 borders. He richly deserves it.

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