Al-Aksa Intifada

   Widespread Palestinian anti-Israel violence and terrorism that began in late September 2000 and continued sporadically, resulting in thousands of deaths on both sides. The reference to Al-Aksa was appropriated by the Palestinians and their international supporters to imply that the violence was provoked by a brief visit to the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's old city— the site of the Al-Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock—by then Likud leader Ariel Sharon on 28 September 2000. This alleged causal connection, however, was explicitly repudiated in the report prepared by the international committee headed by former U.S. senator George Mitchell. The Mitchell Committee Report (issued on 21 May 2001) also repudiated the image of the post-September 2000 violence and terror as a spontaneous, grassroots popular Palestinian expression of frustration with the continuing Israeli occupation and the lack of diplomatic progress, as had been the case with the original intifada that began in December 1987. The evidence, supported by the public acknowledgment of key Palestinian actors, including Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti and former Palestinian Authority communications minister Imad Falouji, overwhelmingly demonstrated that the Al-Aksa intifada was a premeditated reaction by the Palestinian leadership to the failure of talks at Camp David, Maryland, in July 2000 involving Yasser Arafat, Israel's prime minister Ehud Barak, and U.S. president William J. (Bill) Clinton. Arafat's strategic goal was to use the threat of daily violence and terrorism against Israeli civilians to pressure them to demand that their government make territorial concessions to the Palestinians — concessions beyond the offer made at Camp David by Barak—and at no political cost to the Palestinians (in terms of Arafat's having to sign an "end of conflict" agreement with the Israelis).
   Also distinguishing the Al-Aksa intifada from the first intifada was the widespread use of suicide bombers as an increasingly popular weapon of terror against Israeli civilian targets by such Islamic militant groups as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as by radical elements of Arafat's ostensibly secular Fatah, such as the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
   Arafat's death on 11 November 2004 and the succession of Mah-moud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who from the outset had distinguished himself among Palestinian leaders by consistently criticizing what he termed the "militarization" of the Palestinian struggle against Israel, changed the terms of reference of the Al-Aksa intifada. This fact was reflected in the cease-fire understandings agreed to by Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 8 February 2005. Nevertheless, sporadic Palestinian violence and terror associated with the Al-Aksa intifada continued.
   See also Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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