But before Sharon’s controversial decision, frustration and anger had grown year by year among Palestinians amid the refusal of successive Israeli governments to respect the Oslo accords and end the occupation.
Diana Buttu, Ramallah-based analyst and former adviser to the Palestinian negotiators in Oslo, told Al Jazeera: “Everyone, including the Americans, was warning the Israelis that the Palestinians are reaching boiling point and you need to calm down. . Instead, they lit the fire even more.
“Sharon’s visit was the spark that ignited the Intifada, but the foundations have been laid in previous years.
According to the Oslo accord of May 4, 1999, there was to be an independent Palestine, noted Buttu, adding from the start of negotiations in 1993 until the start of the Intifada “what we saw was rapid expansion. Israeli settlements ”.
“In fact, we saw that the number of settlers doubled from 200,000 to 400,000 just in that short period from 1993 to 2000. You can see that what was happening on the ground had been an independent Palestinian state, ”she said.
Tensions and frustration also increased after the collapsed Camp David peace talks in July 2000, where then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak failed to conclude a peace agreement due to disagreements over the status of Jerusalem, territorial contiguity and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Hani al-Masri, director general of Masarat, the Palestinian Center for Political Research and Strategic Studies, added: “The main reason behind the Intifada was that the Israeli leadership wanted to punish Arafat and the Palestinians to force them to accept the Israeli solutions that are similar to the status quo of the occupation. They wanted to force the conscience of the Palestinians to accept what Israel wants.
“The Palestinians wanted, through the Intifada, to improve the post-Oslo conditions which reached a low point at the top of Camp David where Arafat was asked to abandon Jerusalem and the refugee issue.
Wasel Abu Yusuf, senior Palestinian official and member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said: “The political horizon closed for the Palestinians after the Camp David summit where Israel sought to deprive the Palestinians of their capital. in East Jerusalem, the right of return of Palestinians, as well as territorial contiguity.
“Israel wanted, thanks to Sharon’s visit, to provoke a violent reaction from the Palestinians. The Israelis believed that dealing a military blow to the Palestinians would reduce their political demands in the negotiations following the Camp David summit.
How Israel escalated violence during the Second Intifada
The early days of the uprising were characterized by large, non-violent protests that included civil disobedience and stone-throwing. It started in Jerusalem and quickly spread to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The protests were met with excessive force on the part of the Israeli authorities, including rubber bullets and live ammunition. Shortly thereafter, military incursions involving helicopters and tanks followed into heavily populated Palestinian areas.
During the first days of the Second Intifada, it is estimated that Israeli soldiers fired around 1.3 million rounds, as revealed by Amos Malka, then director of Israeli military intelligence. This happened despite the fact that Palestinian violence in the first few weeks was minimal.
“The Israeli violence has shown that the Israelis are not interested in a quick end to the conflict,” Abu Yusuf said. “The fact that Israel fired over a million bullets, caused great loss of Palestinian lives and stepped over Muslim holy sites shows that Israel wanted to militarize the intifada. The excessive use of force by the Israeli army was aimed at dragging the Palestinians into a military confrontation. ”
Buttu said Israeli leaders wanted a distraction from settlement building. ” IIt was a blanket for everything they had wanted to do since.
In the first five days of the intifada, 47 Palestinians were killed and 1,885 injured. Amnesty International found that the majority of Palestinian casualties were civilian passers-by and that 80% of those killed in the first month posed no life threatening danger to Israeli forces. Five Israelis have been killed by Palestinians during the same period.
Analysts have long argued that the excessive use of force was the reason why the phase of Palestinian popular resistance during the Second Intifada ended quickly and was replaced by an armed rebellion.
“The level of Israeli aggression and the losses on the Palestinian side have made it difficult to maintain the non-violent nature of the Palestinian Intifada,” al-Masri said.
When discussing the Second Intifada, Israelis referred to the Palestinian suicide bombings, but observers say it was only for more than a month of Palestinians enduring deadly military attacks that some resorted to sacrificial violence .
At least 4,973 Palestinians were killed in the Second Intifada. Among them were 1,262 children, 274 women and 32 medical staff, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
More than 10,000 children have been injured in the five years of the Intifada, according to Defense for Children International, an independent organization based in Switzerland dedicated to the promotion and protection of children’s rights.
In addition to the deaths and injuries, the Israeli army demolished more than 5,000 Palestinian homes and damaged 6,500 others beyond repair, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
The Second Intifada generally reflected nonviolent resistance that was overlooked by mainstream media, as Palestinians nonviolently organized and protested against the military campaign, Israeli settlements, demolition of Palestinian homes, as well as the barrier. of seperation.
“The vast majority of the Second Intifada was nonviolent. It was never reported because it did not fit the narrative presented to Western media, ”Buttu said.
“I remember attending several of these demonstrations where the Israelis responded with a lot of violence. I was someone who received a rubber bullet in the right leg.
During the years of the Intifada, the Palestinians tried to end the violence, but the Israelis rejected overtures.
In February 2003, Israeli sources revealed a proposal submitted by the Palestinian Authority to Israel. He pledged to completely stop all attacks against Israel in exchange for the gradual withdrawal of Israeli occupation from pre-Intifada sites.
In 2002, the Palestinian leadership reiterated its efforts to end the military confrontation when Arafat endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative launched by Saudi Arabia. Israel, on the other hand, ignored the proposal and continued its military operations.
How Israel still uses the second intifada as a pretext
Buttu noted that Israel later used the uprising to issue demands based on “security” needs.
“They began to make strong demands to take the entire Jordan Valley, take all of Jerusalem, maintain the settlements there. Later it turned into building the wall, later keeping checkpoints and army bases inside Palestinian territory.
“That’s why you see the Trump plan as it is today. The Trump plan fits into all of those demands that Israel imposed following the Second Intifada, which Israel sought and wanted.
Abu Yusuf, the Palestinian official, said that 20 years after the start of the second intifada, Israel still rejects Palestinian rights in any form.
“It is still expanding settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes and implementing its de facto annexation of Palestinian territories with the support of the Trump administration,” Abu Yusuf said.
“Likewise 20 years later, the Palestinian people, despite everything, remain determined to resist the occupation and defend their rights under international law, and will remain so until they achieve freedom in a sovereign and independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and resolve the fate of the refugees in accordance with United Nations resolution 194.
Years after Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Second Intifada, Israel “still commits all kinds of crimes,” al-Masri said. “The silence of the international community is what further encourages Israel to commit crimes and gross violations of human rights.”
Abu Yusuf said recent challenges – such as US President Donald Trump’s so-called Middle East plan, Israeli annexation and the normalization of Arab nations with Israel – are all aimed at “forcing the Palestinians to agree to live in the cantons and the Bantustans ”.
“But since the Palestinians refused during the Intifada years and the previous years of Oslo to accept anything other than ending the occupation, they will continue to do so now and in the future.