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Temple Mount turmoil: Preventing an explosion of mounting tensions

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Published on : 07/17/2017
By : Arista Asmawati

Arabs with Israeli citizenship smuggled guns into a holy site and desecrated a place designated for prayers and supplication to God by shedding the blood of two innocent human beings.


Temple Mount turmoil: Preventing an explosion of mounting tensions


Referring to the area in and around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as “potentially explosive” would be an understatement.

All the elements for a major explosion of violence exist: A plenitude of righteous Muslim anger at Israel’s security restrictions; an abundance of Arab-language media outlets well versed in fanning anti-Israel incitement; a desire on the part of Arab leaders and media outlets to shift attention away from internal Arab conflicts in Syria, Iraq or with Qatar to the “Zionist entity”; even the exceedingly hot weather in the region is conducive to bringing nerves to a breaking point.

Further exacerbating the situation is a general unwillingness by members of the United Arab List to denounce the attack, which was perpetrated by three Israeli citizens from Umm el-Fahm. The best they could do was iterate a general position against the use of violence in the struggle for Palestinian independence while blaming the “occupation” as the main cause for Palestinian violence.

Lastly, were the calls by some Israelis on the Right for the state to use the attack to solidify its control over the holy site and to, for example, permit Jewish prayer there in response.

The government’s decision to swiftly close the Mount on Friday and declare publicly that it will not change the status quo appears to have worked for the time being. Further violence, as of Sunday evening, seems to have been avoided.

Nevertheless, Arab and Muslim leaders need to be more responsible. While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the attack in a rare telephone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Friday, he did not do so in Arabic before the Palestinian people.

Arabs with Israeli citizenship smuggled guns into a holy site and desecrated a place designated for prayers and supplication to God by shedding the blood of two innocent human beings. Yet, instead of denouncing this, Palestinians and the broader Arab and Muslim world has focused on the security measures taken by Israel in response to the attack.

Jordan’s King Abdullah publicly criticized Israel’s decision shortly after the attack on Friday morning to block access to the Temple Mount. The king was motivated by the need to demonstrate to Jordanians, most of whom are of Palestinian origin, that he is taking a tough position against Israel. Still, out of deference to his alliance with Israel, Jordan’s leader could have delayed his criticism of what was a supremely rational move by Israel, one aimed at preventing rioting and hot tempered reactions if Muslims were allowed into the compound for prayers.

Just as Netanyahu was right to decide – after consulting with security officials – to close the Temple Mount in the wake of the terrorist attack, he was acting responsibly when he moved to gradually reopen the site, this time with a new security arrangement: metal detectors.

Unfortunately, this modest attempt to prevent a repeat of Friday’s bloodshed was met with characteristic Palestinian and Arab intransigence as an attempt by Israel to change the status quo. In a classic “blame the victim” argument, MK Taleb Abu Arar (Joint List) told The Jerusalem Post that introducing the metal detectors would bring more bloodshed.

He also accused Israel of taking advantage of the situation to “impose a complete control over the compound” – as though Israel relishes investing more manpower and energy in securing the Temple Mount area for the predominantly Muslim population that visits there.

Entrance to the Western Wall area is possible only after undergoing a security check and passing through a metal detector. In the wake of Friday’s attack, it has become clear that a similar arrangement must be put in place at the entrance to the Temple Mount. Legitimate Palestinian concerns about long delays should be addressed by Israel.

Perhaps the introduction of new security arrangements should be done gradually and in dialogue with the Palestinians.

Nerves are at breaking point.

So far, our prime minister has acted responsibly, ignoring calls by some on the Right to change the status quo, and instead working with Israel’s Arab neighbors to prevent additional violence. That policy should continue.

Irrational fears and religious fanaticism cannot be allowed to win.

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