What was the relationship between the 1987 intifada and the peace process?
While the intifada had a role, the primary driver of these developments was international events in the beginning of the 1990s. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War brought American focus to the Middle East. The Arab world was no longer monolithic, thanks to Saddam Hussein, and was able to change its attitude toward Israel just enough to enter into negotiations aimed at resolving the old conflict. Religious fundamentalism, which thrives on poverty, was now a serious threat to most of the regimes in the region–especially in the case of Iran, which was exporting terror and developing nonconventional weapons. As a result, economic development had become more important to Arab governments than traditional strategic considerations. The United States was being courted by almost every country in the area, and a demonstration of stability was the only way to attract serious economic investment and American political involvement.
The intifada's primary effect was to convince Israel and the US that something had to be done, to keep the process as a high priority.The Arab uprising brought immense pressure upon Israel from the US and other nations to make concessions to the Arabs in order to stop the violence. With the Soviet Union out of the way and the changes in the Arab world, why couldn't the Israel-Palestinian Arab conflict be solved?After Yasser Arafat's announcement of renunciation of terrorism and a recognition of Israel's right to exist in 1988, the Shamir government of Israel had to formulate a response, the May 1989 peace initiative. The Intifada, which erupted throughout the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in late 1987, brought disturbing scenes of the Israeli army suppressing a massive civilian insurrection. Although the Israeli actions were fully justified by the violence, Israel was subjected to harsh criticism in the media, with reporting and editorial comment often devoid of context and historical perspective. In parallel, the Israeli left was activated by the "peaceful" message of the 1988 PLO platform, which eventually led to mutual recognition in the Oslo agreements. A complicating factor was the perceived absence of an acceptable negotiating partner, especially after Jordan's King Hussein renounced any claim to the West Bank in the summer of 1988. Israel would not negotiate directly with the PLO and, without Jordan, the polite fiction of a Jordanian-Palistinian delegation could not be maintained. This vacuum tended to mitigate the impact of the intifada on the Jewish community since they couldn't be pushed into negotiations if there was no one to negotiate with. The intifada also influenced Yasser Arafat and the PLO. When the intifada started, the PLO was caught off guard, far away in Tunisia. Arafat and the PLO responded to the uprising of "their people" by taking control and by proclaiming the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, an act designed to challenge the Israelis to make peace or war with the new entity. But the Palestinians understood that years of terrorism and the intifada had brought them neither political nor economic gains. That equation changed fundamentally with the end of the Cold War and the defeat of Iraq's Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm. These developments created conditions ripe for a renewed peace effort. The 1991 Madrid peace conference, engineered by the Bush administration, was a watershed event. For the first time, Israel entered into direct, face-to-face negotiations with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians.