All Quiet on the West Bank

  • Share
  • Read Later
JERUSALEM: In an action reminiscent of the days of the Intifada, some two million Palestinians closed up shop Wednesday in response to Yasser Arafat's call for a general strike. Stung by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans for new Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the demolition of a Palestinian youth center in east Jerusalem and an Israeli unwillingness to fulfill the peace agreement, Arafat called the first general strike since May 1994. Throughout Palestinian areas of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, streets emptied as schools, stores and transportation shut down. "The strike is an act of self-flagellation," says TIME's Jerusalem bureau chief Lisa Beyer. "Like a hunger strike, the point is to bring attention to the Palestinian complaints. Itself, it is not a major event, but it telegraphs the fact that the Palestinians have reached the end of their rope. Arafat has tried to be extremely reticent in his reactions to Netanyahu's attempts to destroy the peace process, but has reached the point where he could not avoid some sort of challenge and confrontation instead of waiting and praying that things would get better. So far, the Palestinian response has been words, not acts, but there is worry that a return to genuine conflict is possible." Arafat's claim that the Israelis have "declared war" on the Palestinians met with angry denial from Netanyahu, who characterized the strike as an attempt to escalate violence and hurt the peace process. -->