Israel grows jittery of new Palestinian uprising

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It also amounted to international rejection of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Mr. Netanyahu responded by announcing plans to build thousands of new settlement homes, sparking fierce international condemnations.

The tensions further escalated over the weekend when a Palestinian security officer briefly scuffled with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron. The incident quickly attracted some 250 Palestinian protesters. A second clash developed elsewhere in the West Bank.

Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed video from the second clash on Sunday under the headline “Third Intifada?” using the Arabic word for uprising.

Speaking at a business conference, President Shimon Peres, a Nobel peace laureate, said the events in Gaza over the weekend showed that Mr. Abbas is a peaceful and desirable alternative to Hamas.

“We have two clear choices: Nobody is perfect, but one is right and the other is wrong. We have to choose between Mashaal and Abbas,” Mr. Peres said.

Mr. Olmert, speaking at the same conference, accused Mr. Netanyahu of undermining moderate Palestinian elements.

“We methodically hurt the ones who do want peace. We help raise the radical elements instead. The result of this policy could be the collapse of the Palestinian Authority government very rapidly, which would create the worst intifada we’ve seen thus far. We are not far from it,” Mr. Olmert warned.

Mr. Olmert’s government conducted a year of peace talks with Mr. Abbas in 2008 that resulted in closing many gaps but no final accord.

Mr. Netanyahu showed no signs of bending. Speaking to his Cabinet, Mr. Netanyahu said the celebrations in Gaza over the weekend exposed “the true face of our enemies.”

“They have no intention of compromising with us. They want to destroy our country, but they will obviously fail,” he said.

He also said it was “interesting” that Mr. Abbas “has issued no condemnation” of the Hamas comments.

“To my regret, he strives for unity with the same Hamas that is supported by Iran,” the prime minister said.

Mr. Netanyahu’s tough approach has gone over well with the Israeli public. With elections scheduled for Jan. 22, opinion polls forecast Mr. Netanyahu winning re-election as leader of a coalition dominated by hard-line nationalist and religious parties.

The Palestinians have launched two uprisings against Israeli occupation. The first erupted exactly 25 years ago, on Dec. 9, 1987, and lasted nearly six years. The second, deadlier uprising broke out in late 2000 and stretched for about five years. More than 3,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis died in the fighting.

Palestinian officials in the West Bank have signaled they have no desire to return to the days of the uprising, when armed militant gangs controlled Palestinian cities, Israeli military raids were common and Israeli troops strictly controlled movement throughout the West Bank.

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