The Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Arabic: انتفاضة الأقصى Intifāḍat al-ʾAqṣā; Hebrew: אינתיפאדת אל-אקצה Intifādat El-Aqtzah) and the Oslo War, was the second Palestinian uprising – a period of intensified Palestinian–Israeli violence, which began in late September 2000 and ended around 2005. The death toll, including both military and civilian, is estimated to be over 3,000 Palestinians and around 1,000 Israelis (Jews and Arabs), as well as 64 foreigners. B’Tselem’s figures indicate that through April 30, 2008, 35.2% of the Palestinians who were killed directly took part in the hostilities, 46.4% “did not take part in the hostilities”, and 18.5% where it was not known if they were taking part in hostilities. Of the Israeli casualties, B’Tselem reports that 31.7% were security force personnel and 68.3% were civilians. A 2005 study conducted by Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) concluded that Palestinian fatalities have consisted of more combatants than noncombatants. Up to 2005, the ICT puts Israeli combatant casualties at 22% and civilian at 78%. The First Intifada was from December 1987 to 1993.
Under the Oslo Accords, Israel committed to the phased withdrawal of its forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and affirmed the Palestinian right to self-government within those areas through the creation of a Palestinian Authority. For their part, the Palestine Liberation Organization formally recognized Israel and committed to adopting responsibility for internal security in population centers in the areas evacuated. Palestinian self-rule was to last for a five-year interim period during which a permanent agreement would be negotiated. However, the realities on the ground left both sides deeply disappointed with the Oslo process.
In the five years immediately following the signing of the Oslo accords, 405 Palestinians and 256 Israelis were killed, which for the latter represented a casualty count higher than that of the previous fifteen years combined (216, 172 of which were killed during the First Intifada).
In 1995, Shimon Peres took the place of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by Yigal Amir, a Jewish extremist opposed to the Oslo peace agreement. In the 1996 elections, Israelis elected a right-wing coalition led by the Likud candidate, Benjamin Netanyahu who was followed in 1999 by the Labor Party leader Ehud Barak.
While Peres had limited settlement construction at the request of US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, Netanyahu continued construction within existing Israeli settlements, and put forward plans for the construction of a new neighborhood, Har Homa, in East Jerusalem. However, he fell far short of the Shamir government’s 1991–92 level and refrained from building new settlements, although the Oslo agreements stipulated no such ban. Construction of Housing Units Before Oslo: 1991–92: 13,960, After Oslo: 1994–95: 3,840, 1996–1997: 3,570.
Barak courted moderate settler opinion, with the aim of marginalizing the more militant wing, securing agreement for the dismantlement of 12 new outposts that had been constructed since the Wye River Agreement of November 1998, but the continued expansion of existing settlements with plans for 3,000 new houses in the West Bank drew strong condemnation from the Palestinian leadership. Though construction within existing settlements was permitted under the Oslo agreements, Palestinian supporters contend that any continued construction was contrary to its spirit, prejudiced the outcome of final status negotiations, and undermined confidence in Barak’s desire for peace. The Palestinians not only built in areas A & B that Israel ceded, but throughout area C administered by Israel.
Some have claimed that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had pre-planned the Intifada. They often quote a speech made in December 2000 by Imad Falouji, the PA Communications Minister at the time, where he explains that the violence had been planned since Arafat’s return from the Camp David Summit in July, far in advance of Sharon’s visit. He stated that the Intifada “was carefully planned since the return of (Palestinian President) Yasser Arafat from Camp David negotiations rejecting the U.S. conditions.” David Samuels quotes Mamduh Nofal, former military commander of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who supplies more evidence of pre-September 28 military preparations. Nofal recounts that Arafat “told us, Now we are going to the fight, so we must be ready”. Barak as early as May had drawn up contingency plans to halt any intifada in its tracks by the extensive use of IDF snipers, a tactic that resulted in the high number of casualties among Palestinians during the first days of rioting.
Support for the idea that Arafat planned the Intifadah comes from Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, who said in September 2010 that when Arafat realized that the Camp David Summit in July 2000 would not result in the meeting of all of his demands, he ordered Hamas as well as Fatah and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, to launch “military operations” against Israel. al-Zahar is corroborated by Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of the Hamas founder and leader, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who claims that the Second Intifada was a political maneuver which was premeditated by Arafat. Yousef claims that “Arafat had grown extraordinarily wealthy as the international symbol of victimhood. He wasn’t about to surrender that status and take on the responsibility of actually building a functioning society”.
Arafat’s widow Suha Arafat settled the issue in December 2012 by admitting on Dubai television that her husband had planned the uprising. according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) as reported in the 29 December 2012 edition of the Jerusalem Post:
“’Immediately after the failure of the Camp David [negotiations], I met him in Paris upon his return…. Camp David had failed, and he said to me, ‘You should remain in Paris.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because I am going to start an intifada. They want me to betray the Palestinian cause. They want me to give up on our principles, and I will not do so,’” the research institute [MEMRI] translated Suha as saying.”
Following Israel’s pullout from Lebanon in May 2000, the PLO official Farouk Kaddoumi told reporters: “We are optimistic. Hezbollah’s resistance can be used as an example for other Arabs seeking to regain their rights.”
Starting as early as September 13, 2000, members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement carried out a number of attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets, in violation of Oslo Accords. In addition, the Israeli agency Palestinian Media Watch alleged that the Palestinian official TV broadcasts became increasingly militant during the summer of 2000, as Camp David negotiations faltered.
In the Mitchell Report(the investigatory committee set up to look into the causes behind the breakdown in the peace process), the government of Israel asserted that:
the immediate catalyst for the violence was the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations on July 25, 2000 and the “widespread appreciation in the international community of Palestinian responsibility for the impasse.” In this view, Palestinian violence was planned by the PA leadership, and was aimed at “provoking and incurring Palestinian casualties as a means of regaining the diplomatic initiative.”
The Palestine Liberation Organization, according to the same report, denied that the Intifada was planned, and asserted that “Camp David represented nothing less than an attempt by Israel to extend the force it exercises on the ground to negotiations.” The report also stated:
From the perspective of the PLO, Israel responded to the disturbances with excessive and illegal use of deadly force against demonstrators; behavior which, in the PLO’s view, reflected Israel’s contempt for the lives and safety of Palestinians. For Palestinians, the widely seen images of Muhammad al-Durrah in Gaza on September 30, shot as he huddled behind his father, reinforced that perception.
The Mitchell report concluded:
The Sharon visit did not cause the “Al-Aqsa Intifada.” But it was poorly timed and the provocative effect should have been foreseen; indeed it was foreseen by those who urged that the visit be prohibited.
We have no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity; or to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the [Government of Israel] to respond with lethal force.
The Mitchell report was published in May 2001. On September 29, 2001 Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the Fatah Tanzim in an interview to the London Based newspaper Al-Hayat, described his role in the lead up to the intifada.
I knew that the end of September was the last period (of time) before the explosion, but when Sharon reached the al-Aqsa Mosque, this was the most appropriate moment for the outbreak of the intifada….The night prior to Sharon’s visit, I participated in a panel on a local television station and I seized the opportunity to call on the public to go to the al-Aqsa Mosque in the morning, for it was not possible that Sharon would reach al-Haram al-Sharif just so, and walk away peacefully. I finished and went to al-Aqsa in the morning….We tried to create clashes without success because of the differences of opinion that emerged with others in the al-Aqsa compound at the time….After Sharon left, I remained for two hours in the presence of other people, we discussed the manner of response and how it was possible to react in all the cities (bilad) and not just in Jerusalem. We contacted all (the Palestinian) factions.
The July 11–25, 2000 Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David was held between United States President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. The talks ultimately failed with both sides blaming the other. There were four principal obstacles to agreement: territory, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, refugees and the ‘right of return’, and Israeli security concerns.
On September 13, 2000, Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian parliament postponed the planned unilateral declaration of an independent Palestinian state.
This conflict, referred to by the Palestinians as the “Al-Aqsa Intifada,” combined riots of the civilian population with military conflict between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Palestinian civilians. On the occasion of Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, also known as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and an area sacred to both Jews and Muslims, a riot broke out among Palestinians at the site, resulting in a conflict between Israeli forces and the protesting crowd. Still others believe it started a day later on Friday September 29, a day of prayers, when an Israeli police and military presence was introduced and there were major clashes and deaths. The conflict began on September 28, 2000 when Ariel Sharon, a Likud party candidate for Israeli Prime Minister, entered the Temple Mount accompanied by over 1,000 security guards. He stated on that day, “the Temple Mount is in our hands and will remain in our hands. It is the holiest site in Judaism and it is the right of every Jew to visit the Temple Mount”. Palestinians have since claimed his act was a provocation and see it as the beginning of the Second Intifada, while others have claimed that Yasser Arafat had pre-planned the uprising.
Some, like Bill Clinton, say that tensions were high due to failed negotiations at the Camp David Summit in July 2000. They note that there were Israeli casualties as early as September 27; this is the Israeli “conventional wisdom”, according to Dr. Jeremy Pressman, and the view expressed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Most mainstream media outlets have taken the view that the Sharon visit was the spark that triggered the rioting at the start of the Second Intifada. In the first five days of rioting and clashes after the visit, Israeli police and security forces killed 47 Palestinians and wounded 1885, while Palestinians killed 5 Israelis.
Palestinians view the Second Intifada as part of their ongoing struggle for national liberation and an end to Israeli occupation, whereas many Israelis consider it to be a wave of Palestinian terrorism instigated and pre-planned by then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Palestinian tactics ranged from mass protests and general strikes, similar to the First Intifada, to armed attacks on Israeli soldiers, security forces, police, and civilians. Methods of attack include suicide bombings, launching Qassam rockets and mortars into Israel, kidnapping of both soldiers and civilians, including children, shootings, assassination, stabbings, stonings, and lynchings.
Israeli tactics included curbing Palestinians’ movements through the setting up of checkpoints and the enforcement of strict curfews in certain areas. Infrastructural attacks against Palestinian Authority targets such as police and prisons was another method to force the Palestinian Authority to repress the anti-Israeli protests and attacks on Israeli targets. Aggressive riot control was designed to “restore deterrence” believed to be lost when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.
It is also called the Oslo War (מלחמת אוסלו) by some Israelis who consider it to be the result of concessions made by Israel following the Oslo Accords, and Arafat’s War, after the late Palestinian leader whom some blamed for starting it. Others have named what they consider disproportionate response to what was initially a popular uprising by unarmed demonstrators as the reason for the escalation of the Intifada into an all out war. Both Israelis and Palestinians have blamed each other for the failure of the Oslo peace process.