Temple Mount in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM – With Israeli police here mobilizing to secure Jerusalem following days of Palestinian rioting, it is instructive to offer some context for clashes that have been taking place on the Temple Mount and at scattered sites throughout the eastern sections of Jerusalem.

On Sunday, during the Jewish holiday of Sukkoth, about 150 Palestinian protesters hurled rocks and bottles at police after Israel barred men between the ages of 18 and 45 from ascending the Mount. The restrictive order was imposed in response to Palestinian Authority calls for Arabs to flood the holy site to protect the Al Aqsa mosque from so-called Jewish extremists.

Yesterday, unable to reach the Temple Mount, Palestinian and Israeli Arab unrest continued with rock-throwing incidents throughout Jerusalem’s old city and with the stabbing of an Israeli border guard in a northeastern Jerusalem neighborhood.

The unrest, however, is not spontaneous and is not occurring in a vacuum.

The riots are being directly incited by the PA, whose official media outlets and institutions are stoking Arab flames by claiming right-wing extremist Jews are attempting to threaten the Al Aqsa mosque – a decades-old blood libel that should be easily dismissible in light of heavy Israeli restrictions on Jews and Christians from ascending the Mount during most hours of the days; whereas Muslims are usually free to access the site at any time.

Indeed, Israeli rules prohibit Jews and Christians from praying on the site. If any so-called extremist Jew attempted to enter the Al Aqsa mosque, he or she would likely be immediately removed from the Temple Mount by Israeli police, who follow Jewish tour groups very closely and coordinate with the Waqf, the Islamic custodians of the site.

The PA is not just inciting violence; its officials also are assisting the riots. Yesterday, Israeli security forces released from custody Jerusalem’s senior PA official, Khatem Abed Al-Kadr, who had been detained on suspicion of inciting riots. The PA-aligned Islamic Movement even is sponsoring buses to transport young, riled up Arab Israeli men to Jerusalem and the Mount from the fundamentalist-dominated Muslim city of Um Al-Fahem.

Speaking to WND, Dimitri Diliani, the spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party in Jerusalem, did not deny his group’s involvement in the riots.

“Palestinian political factions, including Fatah, are firm on defending the political, national and religious rights of the Palestinian people,” Diliani said, “and it’s evident now we will continue defending the Al Aqsa Mosque as well as our rights in Jerusalem as a whole.”

We know from history that riots emanating from the Temple Mount traditionally are pre-planned and are part of a larger Palestinian nationalist strategy. For example, in September 2000, the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the Mount. At first, the Palestinians claimed the stone-throwing riots were spontaneous. Later, top PA officials, including Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat and his deputy, Marwan Barghouti, admitted the Temple Mount clashes were planned.

So why the current clashes?

The riots actually began two weeks ago, immediately following a three-way meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama and the PA’s Abbas. Obama had hoped the meeting would initiate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state within two years.

During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly days before the Mount riots, Obama used strongly worded language to call for the creation of a “viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967.”

The term “occupation” routinely is used by the Palestinians as well as some countries hostile to the Jewish state in reference to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It is unusual for U.S. presidents to use the term, although former President Jimmy Carter once famously called Israel’s presence in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem “illegal.”

“Occupation that began in 1967” is a specific reference to the lands Israel retained after the Six-Day War of that year, particularly the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.

It seems the PA, emboldened by Obama’s speech, may be using the riots as a pressure tactic to send a clear message to Israel: If negotiations do not create a state in the near future, expect another intifada. The PA under Arafat was notorious for negotiations on the one hand while leading a violent campaign against Israel on the other.

Already, some of Obama’s policies have hardened Palestinian bargaining positions. Most notably, the PA is now demanding a complete halt to Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem in line with the U.S. president’s same demand. The PA never before set a settlement freeze as a prerequisite for talks.

Another factor may be at play in sparking the recent Jerusalem clashes.

The PA’s involvement with the Temple Mount riots comes after the Palestinian public the past few days expressed disapproval with a decision by Abbas to call for the delay of a U.N. Human Rights Council vote regarding a U.N. report that accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes during the Jewish state’s defensive war in Gaza in December and January.

The U.N. report, authored by South African judge Richard Goldstone, has been slammed here as anti-Israel. The report equates Israel, which worked to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, to Hamas, a terrorist organization that utilized civilians as human shields and fired rockets at Jewish population centers from Palestinian hospitals and apartment buildings.

Israeli security officials, speaking with WND, said Abbas likely was, in part, using the Temple Mount clashes to incite against Israel and deflect Palestinian outcry, including from Hamas, stemming from his agreement to delay the U.N. vote.

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