The Temple Mount, Friday prayers, metal detectors, and the incitement of Muslim religious and political leaders were as exciting and worrying as we've seen for some time.

 
Commentators and prominent officials were adding to the noise, with competing assessments of how we've gotten here, who was responsible, and what should be done.
 
Muslim religious authorities closed mosques throughout Jerusalem, elsewhere in Israel and the West Bank, and urged the faithful to al Aqsa, said to be in danger from the Jews.
 
Some passed on tales that the Jews were spilling secret fluid onto the Temple Mount, designed to create an earthquake that would destroy the sacred mosque.
 
Thursday evening we ate dinner, did our regular walk around French Hill, and went to bed to the occasional sound of gun fire from Isaweea and Shuafat.
 
Not to worry for us. Those sounds came from at least 200 meters away.
 
Israeli police positioned some 3,000 personnel in and around the Old City, while the IDF put five regiments on high alert in the West Bank, with access to Jerusalem if needed.
 
Israeli commentators and officials said that the metal detectors should not have been erected, and should be removed before it was too late.
 
Others ridiculed the suggestion. They noted that Jews pass through metal detectors in order to pray at the Western Wall, and Muslims use them to screen pilgrims in Mecca and Medina. 
 
Muslims both rejected all Israeli efforts to "interfere" in the area of al Aqsa, and demanded negotiations about any proposals relevant to the mosque.
 
The combination of these expressions raised questions as to whether any effort to negotiate would be worthwhile.
 
At least some of the Muslims urging all their people to flood toward the Temple Mount seemed to be itching for confrontation, deaths (the more the merrier), and mass funeral marches that would spur their cause longer and higher. 
 
Friday morning the police erected roadblocks to prevent a mass of Muslims from reaching Jerusalem. They imposed age limitations similar to those used at other times of tension. Only men over the age of 50 would be allowed to approach al Aqsa. Women would not be screened for age.
 
Both Israelis and Muslims were saying that the issue was not metal detectors, but who had the ultimate responsibility for the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif/Noble Sanctuary/al Aqsa.
 
Power was at the core. Who had it? and How must it be used?
 
The conflict was not only between Jews and Muslims, but within each community. 
 
Indeed, to call either a community is to belie realities, given the intense competition between Israeli political figures, and the competition that passes to bloodshed among Muslims.
 
There are enough points in the quick but short history of any issue for competitors among politicians or professionals in the police or other security services to pick apart what their rivals did, or said.
 
Should the metal detectors have been erected before achieving agreement from the Waqf or the Jordanian monarch? Would either agreement have been possible? There were conversations with both immediately after the killings that prompted Israel to establish check points for the sake of security.
 
The list of Muslim competitors range from a political and religious variety of Palestinians to the political leaders of several countries seeking prestige or leadership beyond their borders. Jordan begins with the title of historic responsibility for Jerusalem's holy places, but the Presidents of Turkey and Egypt have been seeking support within and beyond their own countries by expressing themselves at one or another level of support for the Palestinian/Muslim cause.
 
Cynics could wonder how much weight Mahmoud Abbas ascribed to his report that the Grand Mufti of Lebanon endorsed what he was doing for the sake of al Aqsa.
 
As it turned out, it was only a few Muslims who passed through the metal detectors. Thousands of others prayed in the streets of the Old City without approaching the metal detectors, or on the streets outside of the Old City. 
 
The Mufti of Jrusalem had said that Allah would not accept prayers by those who passed through Israeli metal detectors.
 
After prayers, the vast majority of those coming to the Old City went home peacefully, but early reports that Friday prayer protests had fizzled were premature. Protests began at several points near the Old City, resulting in hundred of injuries and three deaths among Palestinians.
 
Tension will continue. There'll be more contacts with Jordanians, Palestinians and others. There are more Fridays on the calendar. Those wanting violence will spend their weekdays inciting hatred and planning confrontations. There are enough Palestinians for whom throwing stones or flashing a knife assures a better place in Paradise than the life currently available.
 
At this writing, the score is four dead Palestinians since Friday prayers.
 
Incitement paid off Friday night when a Palestinian found his way into a West Bank settlement and a home where the family was having a festive meal. He killed three of the celebrants and wounded another before a soldier on leave in a neighboring home neutralized him.
 
Abbas declared that he was ending all contacts and security cooperation with Israel until the return of the status quo on the Temple Mount.
 
The IDF increased its personnel in the West Bank beyond the five regiments already posted there.
 
Israel has signaled that it would consider removing metal detectors in return for cooperation on other measures of security on the Temple Mount. 
 
The point is to quiet things and get back to co-existence. There's no ultimate victory in the script of this conflict.
 
A long night meeting of the Israeli Cabinet to consider security options ended with a decision to continue meeting on the following day.
 
It took a week after the initial killings for the American administration to express itself about the Temple Mount. Now it is sending the high ranking son-in-law and others to find a solution.
 
Meanwhile, both Palestinians and Israelis are citing their defense of the Almighty and His people, calling for increased security, an assurance of  sovereignty, and orating at funerals, each in their own language.
 
Their words recall a theme of Tolstoy's War and Peace.
 
"The Spaniards, through the Catholic clergy, offer praise to God for their victory over the French on the fourteenth of June, and the French, also through the Catholic clergy, offer praise because on that same fourteenth of June they defeated the Spaniards." (Chapter 1)
 
Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.



Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share