HADASH MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint Arab List, speaks at the Knesset in this file photo..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Closing the Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount, following Friday’s attack at the complex by three Israeli-Arab gunmen that left two policemen dead, could lead to a third intifada, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said on Saturday night.
The leader of the Arab bloc in the Knesset told Channel 2’s Meet the Press: “Closing the Aksa Mosque is explosive. The Second Intifada broke out on al-Aksa. I warn against the third.”
He criticized the attack on Friday, saying that Israeli Arabs should wage a “political struggle, and not in any way an armed struggle.” MKs from the Islamic Movement-affiliated United Arab List party and the Ta’al party, both part of the Joint List, also released statements condemning violence.
Video of Terror attack at Temple Mount
Odeh added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “wants to turn the conflict from a political to a religious one, which is why he backs provocative entry by settlers into the area of the mosque.”
Jews are not allowed in the close vicinity of the mosque, but they are allowed in the Temple Mount Plaza, where they are prohibited from praying.
The senior leadership body of the country’s 1.4 million Arab citizens has criticized the terrorist attack, but it also condemned the subsequent closure of the mosque to prayers as a “dangerous precedent.”
In a statement released late on Friday after an emergency meeting, the High Follow-Up Committee termed the attack a “rejected individual act that doesn’t serve the struggle of the Arab masses to defend their presence, rights and holy sites.
“Our masses have struggled for 69 years through a track of popular struggle that has proven its credibility over years,” the statement continued. “Any deviation from this doesn’t serve the future of the struggle.”
The three gunmen, who were shot dead by security personnel, came from the northern city of Umm el-Fahm.
The attack was criticized on similar grounds by Joint List MKs Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) and Goumha Azbarga (Balad). “We are against the use of weaponry and of violence in our struggle,” Jabareen said. “We therefore call on all Arab youth to preserve the popular-public character of our struggle and refrain from any damage to our path.”
The attack was the first shooting attack by an Arab citizen since Nashat Milhem, from Arara village, killed three people at a bar in Tel Aviv in January 2016
. Wadie Awawdy, a staffer at Hala television station in Taibe, said it was too early to say what had motivated the Temple Mount attack. But, he said, the attack is viewed by the overwhelming majority of Arab citizens as harmful to Israeli Arabs.
“People aren’t condemning this in order to gain points with ‘Itzik and Moshe,’” Awawdy said. “People really think there is a reality in which they live and a framework they are a part of. There is a lot to fix and we struggle to fix it in the Knesset, the Supreme Court, at demonstrations, through anything you can imagine except violence. That’s a consensus.”
A statement by the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement issued on Saturday was charged, however. It said that “occupation policies and steps are the direct cause for these operations. The decision of the prime minister to continue the closure of al-Aksa Mosque proves the government ignores the reality that the mosque is a red line that the Muslims individually and collectively will never waver in defending.”
It termed the closure “a rejected and condemned violation of the sanctity of the holy site and a vicious attempt to impose a new fait accompli in which Israel consolidates its occupation of blessed al-Aksa Mosque.”
The High Follow-Up Committee’s statement warned against “the government of [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu exploiting the operation to escalate its vicious incitement against our Arab masses and speed up a series of hostile plans,” including home demolitions, budgetary discrimination, and the passing of “despotic laws” such as the nation-state bill that emphasizes the state’s Jewish character and would likely strip Arabic of its status as an official language.
The statement termed Jerusalem and al-Aksa Mosque “an occupied area where there is no legitimacy for the presence of the army. It is a sacred site. The occupation bears responsibility for every drop of blood that is shed [there].”
It warned against “exploitation of the operation to impose a harsher reality than that which al-Aksa has faced in the decades of occupation.”
It added that such actions “could be, beginning with the prevention of Friday prayers [after the attack], a dangerous precedent.”
Azbarga said of the attack: “Our struggle is civilian and this is not what we want. We are definitely against armed struggle. But the occupation is guilty. If there were no occupation this would not have happened.”
He added that closing al-Aksa “only makes matters worse and is irresponsible. The government is dealing with symptoms and not the source of the problem, which is the occupation and lack of [diplomatic] horizon. You need a diplomatic solution and this government has no diplomatic plan whatsoever.”