What goes around in J'lem will come around to Ramallah

Abbas’s unwillingness to face threats at home in favor of waging an unnecessary religious battle may do nothing but undermine his gov't’s stability in the W. Bank.

March 21, 2010 22:31
3 minute read.
Police officers confront Palestinian rioters in th

isawiya riots 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Jewish nation. Despite its most sacred Jewish status, the State of Israel has transformed the Temple Mount in Jerusalem into a place of religious freedom – a phenomenon that hasn’t existed for centuries, neither under Ottoman, British nor even Jordanian rule.

Nonetheless, there is a faction of radical Muslims today that is inciting violence at the Mount in an attempt to discourage Jewish worshipers from visiting the Western Wall and to create an atmosphere of conflict in the city and in the entire region.

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To make matters worse, these rioters are supported by the Palestinian Authority, which encourages such conflict as a diversion of attention away from its own losing battle against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Instead of confronting the real problems with Hamas at home, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is devoting resources toward inflaming a dangerous game in Jerusalem. His unwillingness to face actual threats at home in favor of waging a populist and unnecessary religious battle may do nothing but eventually undermine the stability of his own government in the West Bank – as it did in Gaza.

THE COMBINATION of the PA’s cynicism with Israel’s efforts to ensure religious freedom strikes a disturbing cord. The hypocrisy reminds me of a quote by the late American philosopher Eric Hoffer, “People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.”

If not stopped, the violent Muslim protests at the Temple Mount can only lead to the unfortunate scenario of Israel being forced to enforce the law in a manner in which freedom of worship for some might be infringed upon.

That scenario, however, goes against the very fabric of Israeli democracy. Therefore, it will continue to protect religious freedom in our holy capital for people of all faiths. At the same time, however, the world must clearly understand that Jerusalem will not return to the pre-1967 borders.

While this is a clear and important strategic policy in the heart of consensus in Israel, the government needs to be more tactically sensitive in its building plans for Jerusalem. This is essential to not infringing on the already frail trust that exists on the issue of Jerusalem (if any does, in fact exist). Actions like those of the government’s announcement of new housing units earlier this month fall exactly in the category of a tactical blunder which embarrassed not only our American allies but also most Israelis, all the while driving us farther from our strategic goals.

Before negotiations surrounding Jerusalem are even conceived, the level of trust between Israel and the Palestinians must soar to new heights. Such trust can be developed through confidence building measures and will occur only after the issues of Gaza, the West Bank, the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley are resolved.

AT THE moment, we are again on the verge of starting talks, this time through a mediator. So as we lie on the eve of commencing a new round of talks, it is crucial that this time we find an effective solution, and we should all stay clear of playing the all-to-familiar blame game.

I believe the way to achieve this is by conducting direct negotiations, with American support.

Veteran PA officials including Muhammad Dahlan agree that involving third-party mediators will only impede the process. So I reiterate: The absolute sole route toward a lasting agreement is direct bilateral negotiations.

Any real solution to our issues in the region, with the Palestinians and especially in Jerusalem, can, should and be solved only through direct talks.

It will be difficult. It will take time. It might even require a miracle. Fortunately, in the holy city, miracles are often possible.

The writer is a Kadima MK, a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and a former public security minister.

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