Apr 09 2003

Why is Ramallah so Quiet

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

The road from Jerusalem to Ramallah, especially near Qalandia refugee camp is still full of potholes. But the Qalandia checkpoint, which used to take some times hours to cross, was a breeze, this week. I drove right up to the checkpoint without any delay and the Israeli soldier quickly pass me through. I had a similar experience on the way back. A similar situation has been reported at the dreaded Surda checkpoint connecting Ramallah to Bir Zeit. Palestinians in other locations are reporting similar easing of the checkpoints.

In Ramallah, life seems to have gone back to the relative normality that had disappeared ever since the Israeli incursions last April. Restaurants are open late at night. A friend of mine told me that he and his friends were unable to find space in any of the city’s restaurants last weekend.

The Palestinian governor of the Ramallah-Al Bireh district Issa Liftawi appeared on Al Quds Educational Television (with his own initiative) in order to talk about the need to better organize traffic in the center of Ramallah.

Life has not become easy for Palestinians in far away locations like Gaza and Jenin. On Tuesday, April 8, the Israelis brutally attacked Palestinians killing eight, among them innocent bystanders.

While the situation in general in Palestine, especially in Gaza, has not eased, most of the West Bankers are feeling a change. Some are asking the simple question, why is Ramallah so quiet?

Did the Israelis decide unilaterally to easy their tough policies? Or was it a Palestinian decision to reduce anti-Israeli attacks? Is there some kind of mutual agreement to deescalate the conflict? Is the quiet a result of the temporary lack of interest by the international media in the Intifada? Is it the result of the war against Iraq?

Some have more specific questions? Is this part of the US attempts to reduce tensions in the area so long as the war is going on in Iraq? Is this an early present to the new Palestinian prime minister? Is supposed to prepare the grounds for the upcoming American involvement in Palestine using the Road Map proposals?

But many Palestinians reject that any important change has taken place. They point out to the fact that Israeli assassination and settlement policies have not changed at all as proof that nothing has changed. At best, some would say, that this lull is temporary and not significant.

If this lull is not temporary but closer to being permanent, it would represent an important milestone in the current stage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A continuation of this quiet, not only in Ramallah, but throughout Palestine, could mean that we might be approaching the closing moments of the second Palestinian Intifada. And while the beginnings of uprisings are usually easy to determine, they usually end in a gradual non-dramatic fashion.

The possibility that we are witnessing the beginnings of the end of the Al Aqsa Intifada could be very significant. It would also be ironic that with the 1991 Iraqi defeat, the first Palestinian Intifada ended and now with the apparent defeat of the Iraqi regime, the second Intifada could be coming to an end. With the end of the first Intifada Arabs and Israelis met in Madrid for a Peace Conference that produced nothing more half backed peace agreements. Now that we are at this important juncture, can we expect another half backed solution or do we dare hope and pray for a genuine peace that respects Palestinian’s rights and aspirations.

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