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Towards a third Intifada?

Posted on Posted in Analyses, Middle East

By Athanasios Papadopoulos, Analyst KEDISA


In early July 2023, Israel conducted a significant aerial and ground onslaught into the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, its largest military operation in 20 years. Twelve Palestinians were killed while over 50 were injured in the offensive that began on July 3rd. Drone strikes were launched and a brigade of Israeli troops supported by armored vehicles and snipers entered the city and its refugee camp, encountering Palestinian fire.[1] Since March 2022, Jenin and outlying areas in the north of the Israeli – occupied West Bank have been subjected to increased raids authorized by Israel’s nationalist – religious government in response to a wave of Palestinian street violence. Furthermore, many militants reside in the densely populated urban area of the Jenin refugee camp, and the escalation of violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians is the result of increasingly weak Palestinian political leadership and the steady expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land under Israel’s most hardline nationalist government ever.[2]

The joint aerial and ground incursion is the first since the 2002 battle of Jenin during the second Intifada. On the one hand, Israel claimed that the attack defended its right to security, in order to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups, while the Palestinians spoke of a new war crime against their defenseless people. The raid occurred at a time when Israel was under increasing pressure to respond forcefully to a series of attacks on settlers. Protests and a general strike erupted across the West Bank as a result of the operation. The ghetto – like area has long been regarded as a hub of what Palestinians call armed resistance and Israelis brand terrorism. Armed fighters from militant groups including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah are based there.[3]

Tensions have been rising in recent months, fueled by a variety of factors. Among them are deadly Israeli military incursions in Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, murders of Israelis by Palestinian individuals, mob rampages by Israeli settlers, incendiary statements by members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s far – right government and the Knesset, a restless and military mighty Hamas in the Gaza Strip and a Palestinian Authority (PA) that has lost legitimacy in the hearts and minds of many Palestinians as its security apparatus has started to crumble. The year 2022 saw the highest number of Palestinian casualties in the West Bank since the second Intifada and 2023 is on track to be even bloodier.[4] Although turmoil has not reached the levels encountered during the Second Intifada, the current escalation has been abrupt and alarming, with violence centered mostly in the northern West Bank.[5]

In late December 2022, Israel’s most far – right and religious government took power. Netanyahu and his Likud party lead the coalition government, which includes two ultra-Orthodox parties and three far-right groups, among them the Religious Zionism party, an ultranationalist fraction associated with the West Bank settler movement. Netanyahu made a number of compromises to his far-right partners in order to secure a governing majority.[6] Since the beginning of 2023, Israel’s campaign in the West Bank has risen substantially owing mostly to the extreme right – wing government. Raids in Jenin and Nablus in January and February, respectively, spilled over into Jerusalem resulting in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.[7] In response to the increasing violence, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have upgraded their tactics, deploying drones, heavy armored vehicles, and attack helicopters.[8]

In the meantime, across the West Bank, young Palestinians have formed new militant groups in the past couple of years. The three primary factors that led to their creation are the PA’s legitimacy issue and its corrupt and authoritarian practices, its perception that it operates as a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation, and direct assistance cuts, particularly from the United States and Saudi Arabia. Another problem is Mahmoud Abbas’ replacement as President of the PA. These organizations are not associated with any of the main parties or movements, such as the PLO or Hamas. They are motivated by a vague but fundamental dissatisfaction with the status quo, ranging from the Palestinians’ own weak leadership to the harshness of Israel’s ever-deepening occupation and a failing economy. They are not outwardly Islamist, and religion has little bearing on the groups’ character in terms of strategy or agenda, which they still mostly lack. Due to capacity constraints and the concern of drawing harsher Israeli retaliation, they mostly focus on small-scale attacks on Israeli military outposts, checkpoints, and settlers. Their acts appear to be extremely performative, a style of showboating that emphasizes moral rather than military victory, as they do not constitute a big security threat to Israel, at least for the time being. These organizations are likewise a response to the national leadership vacuum. Many Palestinians perceive them as a local, true alternative to the distant PA.[9]

To make matters worse, the interim status of annexation of Palestinian territories has now become permanent. The two-state solution made sense in the years during the Oslo Accords in 1993, but that time has long passed. Under Israeli rule, the entire territory west of the Jordan River has long been considered as a single state, with Palestinians continuously treated as an inferior caste. Over the last year, violence, dispossession, and human rights violations have increased, and the potential of a large – scale violent conflict rises with each day that Palestinians are trapped in this ever-expanding system of legalized oppression and Israeli aggression. Netanyahu’s new government epitomizes these trends. Its members brag about their mission to create a new Israel in their image: less liberal, more religious and more willing to own discrimination against non – Jews.[10]

To avoid further escalation, if not a third Intifada, Netanyahu must demonstrate greater tolerance on the Palestinian question, constrain extremists in his coalition, and backtrack on internal democratic deterioration. Conditions for a positive shift include the marginalization of Israeli extremists, the avoidance of a flare-up with the Palestinians, the reduction of domestic upheaval, and the effective involvement of both the United States and the European Union. If Netanyahu meets these requirements, the US administration may devote more time and effort to fostering regional cooperation.[11] For Israel’s aspect, tactics that resemble annexation would cost it credibility with Washington and the Arab nations that signed the Abraham Accords. Netanyahu’s key foreign policy goals necessitate a position that is not against two states. However, he is hampered by coalition partners who appear to have a different agenda.[12]



Barnett, Michael, Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch, και Shibley Telhami. ‘Israel’s One-State Reality’. Foreign Affairs, April 14 2023. Accessed: August 1st 2023,

Center for Preventive Action. ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’. Global Conflict Tracker, July 6 2023. Accessed: August 1st 2023,

Goren, Nimrod. ‘The Slowing Down of Israel-Arab Relations Under the Netanyahu Government’. Middle East Institute, May 25 2023. Accessed: August 1st 2023,

International Crisis Group. ‘Persistent Violence in Israel-Palestine Could Escalate Further’, March 21 2023. Accessed: August 1st 2023,

International Crisis Group. ‘The New Generation of Palestinian Armed Groups: A Paper Tiger?’, April 17 2023. Accessed: August 1st 2023,

McKernan, Bethan, και Peter Beaumont. ‘Israel Attacks Jenin in Biggest West Bank Incursion in 20 Years’. The Guardian, July 3 2023, dpt. World news. Accessed: August 1st 2023,

Reuters. ‘Why Did Israel Attack Jenin? West Bank Operation Explained’. Reuters, July 5 2023, dpt. Middle East. Accessed: August 1st 2023,

Ross, Dennis. ‘Back to the Basics of Shared Values in the US-Israel Relationship’. The Washington Institute, April 2023. Accessed: August 1st 2023,

Yaari, Ehud. ‘The Danger of Violent Escalation in the West Bank’. The Washington Institute, June 23 2023. Accessed: August 1st 2023,



[1] McKernan & Beaumont, ‘Israel Attacks Jenin in Biggest West Bank Incursion in 20 Years’.

[2] Reuters, ‘Why Did Israel Attack Jenin?’

[3] McKernan & Beaumont, ‘Israel Attacks Jenin in Biggest West Bank Incursion in 20 Years’.

[4] ‘Persistent Violence in Israel-Palestine Could Escalate Further’.

[5] Yaari, ‘The Danger of Violent Escalation in the West Bank’.

[6] Center for Preventive Action, ‘Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’.

[7] ‘Persistent Violence in Israel-Palestine Could Escalate Further’.

[8] Yaari, ‘The Danger of Violent Escalation in the West Bank’.

[9] ‘The New Generation of Palestinian Armed Groups: A Paper Tiger?’

[10] Barnett, Brown, Lynch & Telhami, ‘Israel’s One-State Reality’.

[11] Goren, ‘The Slowing Down of Israel-Arab Relations Under the Netanyahu Government’.

[12] Ross, ‘Back to the Basics of Shared Values in the US-Israel Relationship’.