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How the events of 9/11 still affect the Israeli-Palestinian conflictExBulletin

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The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks influenced the decisions of Israeli and Palestinian leaders during the Second Intifada in ways that still have influence.



RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Twenty years ago this week, planes crashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. On the other side of the world, the Israelis and Palestinians were deep in the second intifada.

NPR’s Daniel Estrin spoke to some who were involved in that war. They think the aftermath of 9/11 affected their conflict in ways still visible today.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: On September 11, 2001, American television viewers watched this scene from Jerusalem. This is Fox News.

(TCH RECORDING SOUNDBITE)

UNDENTIFIED REPORTER: The V sign for victory appears today in East Jerusalem among happy Palestinians.

ESTRIN: Some rejoiced when they saw Israel’s ally, America, hit. Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, ordered his security services to quickly cancel any scattered celebrations. And he issued a statement.

Assistant Nabil Amr tells me he helped design it.

NABIL AMR: We want to send a message to the world. We are not with Al Qaeda and its activities, because we are completely against terror.

ESTRIN: At that time, the second intifada, the Palestinian uprising with militant bombings and shootings and attacks by Israeli troops, had continued for a year. The Palestinians were fighting for an independent state.

But Amr says Arafat was concerned that the Palestinians would be labeled terrorists.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

ESTRIN: Nasser Jumaa was once a leader of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades militant group. We walk up the stone steps to a historic Turkish bath in the West Bank town of Nablus, where his people would hold meetings.

NASSER JUMAA: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: He says, “Arafat’s emissaries were told he wanted to take a big step and end the intifada. Since America had declared war on terror, he feared the world would not be sympathetic to the Palestinian armed war. . ” And for a short time, the violence diminished.

Israeli Army Brigadier General Shlomo Brom thinks it was an opportunity that could have changed history.

SHLOMO BROM: Yasser Arafat wanted to distance himself from this axis of evil. And the only way to do that was to stop the intifada. But this did not stop, and not because of Yasser Arafat, because of the Israeli side. We missed this opportunity.

ESTRIN: In January 2002, Israel killed a senior West Bank militant, resuming a policy of assassination.

BROM: When you get this intelligence for the bad guys, you want to kill them. So we could not overcome the desire.

ESTRIN: Not everyone blames Israel. And former Jumaa commander says Arafat still could not control all the militants. In March 2002, a suicide bomber killed 30 civilians during an Easter meal at an Israeli hotel.

Amos Gilead was a senior army officer at the time.

AMOS GILEAD: At Easter, wow – the moment I got the message, I said, this is it. Now we would invade.

ESTRIN: Six months after 9/11, Israel launched a full-scale invasion of the West Bank, with tanks on the road, killing hundreds of Palestinians. Israel’s view was that the US would understand.

GILEAD: American expressions – very simple. Terror is terror.

ESTRIN: The peace process for a two-state solution never regained full momentum. The Israelis widely believe that their security requires keeping the West Bank under their control.

Retired Brigadier General Brom says this is the legacy of the horrific intifada violence.

BROM: It completely destroyed the mutual trust between the two parties – it was completely destroyed. And he did not return.

JUMAA: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: Nasser Jumaa, former militant, thinks the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks ended the dream of a Palestinian state as the United States and the Arab states had other things to do besides forcing a compromise between Israelis and Palestinians .

Daniel Estrin NPR News, Nablus, West Coast.

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