The intifadah changed forever the way Israelis and Palestinians viewed themselves and each other
THE Israeli Army poured troops into the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday, in a bid to stave off trouble as Palestinians prepared to mark the sixth anniversary of their intifadah, or uprising, today.
The anniversary, always a volatile day marked by a general strike in the occupied territories, and stone-throwing at soldiers and settlers, falls at an especially delicate moment. A wave of violence is sweeping the West Bank four days before the Palestinians are due to take their first steps toward self-rule.
In the latest incident, an Israeli was seriously wounded by a Palestinian in Bethlehem yesterday morning. Israeli troops closed the town as they hunted the assailants.
As the death toll mounts, and as doubts spread that Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) will meet the Dec. 13 target date to begin implementing their autonomy accord, observers on both sides of the conflict agree that without the intifadah there would probably not have been a peace treaty at all.
``The intifadah finally brought them together, and made Israelis and Palestinians realize that they had to negotiate,'' says Zeev Schiff, who co-wrote a book on the Palestinian uprising. ``Without the intifadah, it would have been much more difficult for the Israelis to realize that they needed a strategic solution.''
At the same time, says Freih abu-Middain, head of the Gaza Bar Association, the intifadah gave the Palestinians a sense of dignity ``like the 1973 war for [then Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat: It gave us the confidence to make peace with Israel.''
For opponents of the framework peace accord between Israel and the PLO, under which Palestinians will enjoy limited autonomy, starting in the West Bank city of Jericho and the Gaza Strip, the deal falls far short of the goal they have been fighting for over the past six years - an independent Palestinian state.
Masked militants belonging to Hamas, the radical Islamist group, marched in the the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, pledging to continue their intifadah against Israel, even after Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza.
The uprising began on Dec. 9, 1987, the day after an Israeli truck ran into a Palestinian vehicle carrying laborers from the Gaza Strip, killing four of them. That incident, which rumor quickly transformed into a deliberate act of murder, triggered rioting that developed into the intifadah, an Arabic word that literally means ``shaking off.''