The similarity between what happened in the year 2000 and what is happening now in 2014 is frightening. Just as in 2000, around Rosh Hashana, the second intifada broke out following a visit by prime minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount. And now, 14 years later, the third intifada is beginning surrounding a very similar occurrence. Even if you object to the use of the term intifada, this doesn’t change the fact that the violence is taking place and that history is repeating itself.
Another way in which the two cases resemble each other is that in both situations the killing of a Palestinian boy served as a catalyst to ignite the fire. In both cases, the boy who was killed gave the cause a human face on which to focus. In 2000, Muhammad al-Dura was killed at the Netzarim junction, and in 2014, Muhammad Abu Khdeir was lynched by Jews in the Jerusalem Forest. (As fate would have it, just 10 days after Dura was shot, Palestinians lynched two IDF soldiers.) Both children quickly became symbols of the Palestinians’ suffering and their names were mentioned and photos shown in the international press relentlessly.
Their deaths oiled the wheels of incitement and increased the hatred directed at Israel.
The two intifadas erupted when negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians had not just been put on hold, but completely shut down.
When the Camp David Summit ended in 2000 without an agreement, then-prime minister Ehud Barak immediately understood that the result would be armed conflict. He even made an effort to initiate a public relations campaign to garner international support for Israel. Similarly, in 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas when the latter appointed three Hamas representatives to his cabinet.
Israel’s standing in the international community is at an all-time low.
In both cases, the Palestinian partner went from being a participant in negotiations to being a sworn enemy almost overnight. Israel claimed that Yasser Arafat was personally responsible for the outbreak of the second intifada, and in 2014, Netanyahu and his compatriots rejected Abbas, saying that he was responsible for the entire crisis. Once again, Israel has found a super-enemy toward whom it can channel all its negative energy. How convenient.
The Temple Mount, which has played such a pivotal role in both cases, is the last place Israel where should want to come into contact with Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.
Anyone who has ever gone up there knows quite well that this is just playing with fire.
The Temple Mount is the heart of the conflict in both the religious and political spheres.
Now, after 14 years, we have come full circle. In 2000, certain hours were set as acceptable for Jews to be allowed to visit the Temple Mount. There are a number of MKs and government ministers who are trying to alter these arrangements.
Some of them, namely Construction Minister Uri Ariel, have even ventured to make public statements about building a third Jewish Temple.
In the Temple Mount riots of 2000, the police were less prepared for the rapid deterioration of the situation, and as a result seven Palestinians lost their lives and dozens were injured. This time around, Israeli police forces have some experience under their belts, and much to the chagrin of people who are calling for Israel to increase the use of force, there have been no fatalities on the Temple Mount, thank God.
The Temple Mount is the starting point for another cycle of violence that closely resembles the violence we saw in 2000. Then, too, the first wave took place in Jerusalem and then spread to Judea and Samaria. In both cases the violence spread quickly to Israeli Arabs, too. Each year, more and more Arabs with Israeli citizenship identify themselves with Palestinians who live in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem.
The October 2000 riots were a seminal event for Jewish-Arab relations. They uncovered the gaping chasm between the Jews who are in the majority and the Arabs who are in the minority, the inequality, the neglect and the intense anger.
Then, as now, it took very little to incite disgruntled people to gather at demonstrations and clash with the police. It was a big deal that the boy Kheir al-Din al-Hamdan was killed last Saturday in Kafr Kana, and this incident needs to be investigated properly.
A standard internal police investigation will not suffice in this case. Instead, the police should have an external body oversee the investigation, which would help gain the trust of the Arab public. If this is not done, this will just be one more reason for the Arab community to lose the little trust it still holds for the State of Israel and its institutions.
Following the events of the year 2000, the Or Commission that was created issued a series of recommendations, including calling on the prime minister to personally intervene to deal with the Arab sector. The commission stated: “The Arab sector has been neglected for many years and has not been dealt with properly. This issue needs to be dealt with in the immediate future, as well as in the long term.” The Or Commission recommended that the state work to bring equality for Israel’s Arab citizens and “to erase the stain of discrimination in all forms.”
Fourteen years have passed since then. And now a new intifada has descended upon us. Arab Israelis will become swept up in it whether they choose to be or not. Do the prime minister and the government recall that they made a commitment? Ladies and gentlemen, history is repeating itself.The author, a Labor MK, serves as deputy chairman of the Knesset, and is a member of its Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and its Internal Affairs Committee.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
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