By: Shlomo Gazit, General, (res.), former Chief of Army Intelligence
We are at the threshold of a new Intifada, that will be conducted according to new, different rules based not on the relative strength of military forces, but on today's reality of politics and media.
(Ttranslated from the Hebrew article, published on Dec. 16, 2012)
It is too early to determine specific facts, however we should not be surprised if in a few weeks or months December 6th and 7th will be remembered as marking the beginning of a third Intifada. One after the other we saw powerless IDF soldiers – in Hebron, and the following day in Kadum facing crowds of aroused Arabs hurling stones at them.
We are on the threshold of a new Intifada that will most likely be conducted according to new and different rules. What will decide the outcome of this next Intifada will not be the relative strength of military forces, but real-politique and the power of mass media. Our absolute military superiority will not stand us in good stead. On the contrary, the mere use of military force will work against us. There have been three new developments since the Intifada of year 2000:
• Our defense forces will be asked to use live ammunition against Palestinians who are now the citizens of a state that has been recognized by 138 countries at the General Assembly of the United Nations. The UN document will be dangled in front all those in Israel who wish to rely on a report of Judge Edmond Levy's Committee, according to which, Israel is not a foreign nation occupying the West Bank.
• Every incident and every confrontation in the territories will be documented in real time on smart phones, laptops and television screens and disseminated to all corners of the universe, including countries generally perceived as sympathetic to Israel. Those who want to order IDF soldiers to open fire on people who throw stones at them will perhaps save us from humiliating pictures of fleeing soldiers, but instead posts around the world will be of hard images of shooting into and hurting civilians, many of them young people.
• The region in which we operate has fundamentally changed following the "Arab Spring". Reactions in Egypt and in Jordan will not originate among known leaders, who can be expected to responsibly weigh their actions. Future decisions will be taken by masses called to walk out of mosques to demonstrate in public squares.
This is a tough forecast of what can be expected during the next Intifada. Israel must already prepare itself today and adjust to the new reality. The major issue is not how our defense forces will behave during violent confrontations, but how to rapidly implement new policies and routines to avoid violent confrontations! We must move in three parallel directions:
• First and foremost it is imperative to engage in a dialogue with Mahmud Abas (Abu Mazen), coordinate with him our positions and establish a tight functioning cooperation in the field.
• Israel must do everything in its power to prevent provocations by "price tag" operatives (vigilante groups of settlers who wreak physical destruction on Arab mosques and private property, in a kind of ‘pay the price for’ or an ‘eye for an eye’ policy of terrorizing Arabs). The steps taken so far in the field by the Military Authorities have failed. I suspect there will be no other option than to initiate drastic actions against the political-religious leadership which stands behind the activities of these "price tag" operations.
• We must change the operational routine of the defense forces and as much as possible reduce the presence of our army in densely populated Palestinian areas; a presence that invites outbursts of violence and confrontations.
The main message I wish to convey here is that we are running out of time. Israel cannot afford to remain complacent until after the new government is formed, next April. The grave damages that could result from three-four months of a "wait-and-see" policy for Israel and for her political standing could be irreversible!