The Palestinians troubled path to statehood is a product of their own political divisions. Schanzer believes that the problem had its roots in the outbreak of the first intifada in 1988. At that time, Arafat was exiled from the territories and living in Tunisia, so he and Fatah were unable to take credit for the Palestinian uprising. Instead, it was Arafat’s rival, Hamas, which quickly eclipsed Fatah in terms of popularity with Islamists and refugees. Seeing his political relevance eroding, Arafat announced that he would accept in theory the state of Israel.
Arafat’s declaration as merely a ploy to get him back on the world stage. By simply recognizing the state of Israel, the entire world came rushing to him thinking that perhaps he could end the uprising and bring Israeli-Palestinian peace. The next seven years were the Oslo Period. Although many saw the Accords as offering hope for a sustained peace, Arafat came to regret his move. By seeking the mantle of a statesman, Arafat found that he created a vacuum in the arena of military struggle that Hamas was able to exploit.
As evident by the fact that during the 1990’s, most terror attacks on Israel were perpetrated by Hamas. Attacks on Israel served a dual purpose for Hamas. Every act of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas made Fatah look incompetent to the outside world and undermined Arafat’s overall strategy. Terrorist attacks against Israel cemented Hamas’ popularity with the Palestinians, who increasingly looked to it as assertive, while Fatah was seen as submissive to the West.
This state of affairs lasted until 2000, when Arafat, seeing the damage that his reconciliation attempt had caused to the political relevance of Fatah, launched the second intifada. Arafat’s motivation behind this action was to beat Hamas with their own tactics. Arafat promoted the conflict in a much more Islamist way than his first intifada. For example, calling the war the Al-Aqsa intifada, after the historic mosque in Islam situated in Jerusalem.