This week, undercover Israeli operations in Jenin and Tamoun sparked demonstrations in both places, injuring dozens of Palestinians. In addition, masked, armed men participated in a Fatah Day rally in Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp – something that hasn’t been seen in the West Bank for years. Their presence was reported by the Israeli news outlet YnetNews, which posted a video. Nasser al-Laham, editor of the Bethlehem-based Palestinian news agency Maan, confirmed the reports for the Monitor.
Mohammad Laham, a Fatah leader in Bethlehem, says he wasn’t present at the march but points to the tremendous economic pressure the PA is facing, particularly since Israel withheld tax revenues it collects on behalf of the PA, as one of the reasons for local discontent. Israel's move was seen as retaliation for Abbas’s UN bid, but Israel said the money was taken to offset PA debts for Israeli electricity services.
“There are a lot of crises coming together now – economic, political, and social, the financial crisis, the continuation of [Israeli] settlement and the absence of a horizon for the political process and of hope,” says Mr. Laham. “The continuation of this situation in Bethlehem, Nablus, or any other Palestinian city does not augur well.”
When asked whether this might translate into armed struggle, he replies simply: “All the possibilities are open.”
The JMCC poll distinguishes between military operations, such as Hamas’s campaign of firing missiles into Israel, with armed struggle, which would include things like suicide bombings. There was also an uptick in support for armed struggle, albeit to a more modest 32 percent.
Last month, the Israeli killing of a Palestinian teenager who reportedly had a fake gun sparked protests in Hebron, a Hamas stronghold and an area of particular friction with Israeli settlers. A previously unknown Palestinian militant group there, the National Unity Brigades, announced the start of a third intifada.