Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s visit to Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, including a walk through Damascus Gate with Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai escorted by a large police contingent, went smoothly with no reports of violence.
Palestinians, however, said the foreign minister was “storming” Damascus Gate and engaging in provocation, encouraging and making excuses for reprisal attacks during a wave of terrorism.
Lapid’s office presented the visit as a show of solidarity with Israel’s much-maligned police.
“When we will all be with our families on Passover Eve, about 8,000 police officers will be outside protecting the lives of Israeli citizens,” Lapid was quoted as saying by his spokesman. “This is a difficult time, a tense time, but we can rely on our police... I’m proud of our police... and everyone who protects us during these tense days.”
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned the “provocative incursion” and said Lapid’s promise to have increased police forces on duty for Passover was “inciting against the Palestinians,” part of an “expansionist Judaizing colonial system” and, as always, apartheid.
Similarly, a Hamas spokesman said the event was an escalation for which Israel will pay.
“The Palestinian nation is committed to defending Jerusalem and al-Aqsa through force and all means at its disposal,” the spokesman said.
Not wanting to be left out of the fun, Joint List MK Sami Abou Shahadeh called Lapid’s visit “provocative” and part of “a competition between all the Zionist parties in recent days... to satisfy the desire of the masses for revenge and blood.”
A reminder: Lapid took a calm walk through Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. No one got hurt. He wasn’t walking through a Palestinian town; he was walking in sovereign Israel.
Lapid wasn’t even walking through a holy site like the Temple Mount, which it must be noted, is also Judaism’s holiest site, is under Israeli sovereignty and is legal for Israelis to visit. He was half a kilometer away in a market with restaurants and clothing and souvenir tchotchke stands.
The Palestinian media and leadership have long called any Israeli visit to the Temple Mount “storming” by “settlers.” On Sunday, even the so-called moderates of the Palestinian Authority extended that to the rest of the Old City, lamenting the Judaization of a city built by a Jewish king 3,000 years ago, which has been holy to Jews ever since.
The PA gave up the game, and not for the first time, revealing its rejection of the mere presence of Jews in their midst.
This reaction is an unfortunate reminder of the past. When Ariel Sharon, then a candidate for prime minister, visited the Temple Mount in September 2000, Palestinians used that as an excuse to launch the Second Intifada, in which terrorists killed more than 1,000 Israelis. But it was just that – an excuse – as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had long been planning an assault on Israel.
We are already in the midst of a wave of Palestinian and Arab terrorism against Israel, and it appears the Palestinian leadership is looking to find a scapegoat on whom to pin it, and it found Lapid. The escalation and provocation in this situation come from the Palestinians and their fellow travelers, trying to incite rage and apparently violence in light of the dozens of terrorist attacks that have taken place in recent months.
In contrast, Labor MK Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin, who has made statements identifying strongly with Palestinians, said Lapid was not trying to be provocative.
“Lapid is welcome anywhere,” he told Army Radio. “He brings with him a willingness to listen, peace and brotherhood.”
One doesn’t have to be nearly as effusive as the Labor MK to say an Israeli minister walking in the Old City of Jerusalem is not a provocation. Anyone saying otherwise is looking for a reason to be provoked.