The Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab populations west of the Jordan River are roughly of equal size. But while Israeli Jews are gathered under a single political authority and structure, the Arab population is divided into four distinct groups: Arab citizens of Israel, Arab residents of Jerusalem, the population of Gaza, and the population of the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.
These publics are mostly united by a common Islamic religious identity, and to a lesser extent by a common sense of Palestinian nationality. But their immediate interests and political outlook diverge in important ways.
The question is whether the passions aroused around the supposed threat to the Al Aqsa mosque will override the differing outlooks and interests, and whether a large part of the Arab population west of the Jordan River will launch an uprising against Israel. Hamas is pushing in that direction, in the waning days of Ramadan. But the shift of the epicenter of events to Gaza may limit the impact of this effort. Gaza is not a unifying symbol. The West Bank is so far largely quiet. In Jerusalem and among Arab Israelis, the unrest, while fierce, remains geographically limited and involves limited numbers. For as long as these divisions hold, there's little chance of a third intifada.
Jonathan Spyer is a Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.