Know comment: Regaining control in Jerusalem

Only when Israel acts in concrete fashion to shore up its stake in Jerusalem can the city be secured.

Jerusalem skyline 370  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem skyline 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
I salute Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky for tenaciously pursuing the American government in order to have their son registered as having been born in Jerusalem, Israel – a case which they are now taking for a second time to the US Supreme Court.
But the real struggle over Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is under way every day in Jerusalem itself. At present, Israel is evincing a weak hand and losing the battle.
Last Friday, Tova Richler of New York arrived in Israel to attend her father’s funeral in the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in eastern Jerusalem. En route to the burial site, near the Gethsemane Church junction, 10 Arab youth pelted her car with rocks and bricks, smashing the windows. She escaped alive but missed the internment.
In recent years, such attacks have become commonplace in and around the hallowed cemetery, and many people are afraid to travel to funerals and memorial ceremonies there.
The French Hill neighborhood which borders on Hadassah-University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, also has become unsafe. Residents are harassed by youth from nearby Arab neighborhoods, and there have been many robberies, repeated arson attacks and car stonings, a firebombing, and a stabbing.
Anybody who has traversed the new road from Benzion Netanyahu junction through Beit Hanina knows the dangers. Stoning is not uncommon, and red traffic lights are apparently mere decorations to the neighborhood’s Arab residents.
The greatest affront of all has been playing itself out almost every day this month on the Temple Mount in the Old City, where Arab youth regularly accost Jewish visitors to the site, and have taken to almost-daily stoning of Israeli police. The Arabs have even been caught stocking stones and other riot gear inside the mosques. Outrageously, the police response to these attacks has been to close the Mount to Israeli-Jewish visitors and tourists – instead of closing it to Arab visitors.
And of course, illegal Wakf Islamic trust excavations continue on the Temple Mount without Israeli archeological supervision. We know that over the past decade the burrowing out by the Wakf of the underground “Solomon’s Stables” has wantonly destroyed thousands of years of Jewish relics and history.
It seems that the Palestinians are neither willing to countenance live Jews on the Temple Mount nor dead Jews on the Mount of Olives.
The radical Arab imams behind these disturbances and provocations have the full backing of Mahmoud Abbas’s supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority. PA Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habbash and PA Mufti Muhammad Hussein constantly propagate lies about nonexistent Israeli plans to undermine and destroy the Muslim shrines on the Mount.
The former chief justice of the PA’s Religious Court, Sheikh Tayseer al-Tamimi, recently declared that the PA’s Islamic belief and political position is that Jews should not only be prohibited from praying on the Temple Mount but at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, too, since the Wall is part of the “blessed al-Aksa Mosque” and not part of any “alleged” ancient Jewish temple.
All the while, Arab residents of greater Jerusalem enjoy the full gamut of Israeli civil rights and privileges, including freedom of speech without threat from Abbas’s goons, full Israeli national insurance and health coverage, and municipal social services. Arab Jerusalemites can be found by their thousands shopping happily in every mall in the city and picnicking in every park, free of threat.
Undoubtedly, the troublemakers are a minority of Arab Jerusalemites.
But Israel’s hesitancy in dealing toughly with the provocateurs and their PA-government sponsors leaves us with a deleterious and deteriorating net result: Israel’s control (never mind sovereignty) over the united city is fraying.
Government caution in managing Jerusalem’s delicate political and security affairs is understandable, given the tinderbox status and contested future of the city. Yet it seems that the Netanyahu government has let things slide too far. It has become too accepting of Palestinian violence in the city and too tolerant of Wakf chutzpah on the Temple Mount.
Like his political party boss, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu) is good at talking, but has taken little action.
Why aren’t the Israel Police, for which he is responsible, decisively enforcing law and order in the city? If Aharonovitch and the Israel Police inspector-general can’t muster the determination to tackle the string of security incidents, they should be replaced. Safety and security on all roads and at all sites in the city is a basic right of Israeli citizens of all religions and ethnicities, and the state has an elementary duty to provide this – even in Jerusalem; especially in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s responsibility goes further. Beyond beefing-up Israel’s security presence in the trouble spots and ending Palestinian violence, the government must act proactively to cement Israel’s hold in the city; to signal the world that we are serious about keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty. The government should move to establish a (long-overdue) Jewish prayer facility alongside the Muslim mosques on the Temple Mount, and to build the strategic E-1 quadrant that connects Jerusalem to its eastern security anchor in Ma’aleh Adumim.
These initiatives will engender Palestinian (and American) resistance, but with resoluteness and sensitivity Israel can succeed and overcome the opposition. The initiatives will give Israeli and Palestinian diplomats something to talk about besides the release of Palestinian terrorists and other outrageous, never-ending Palestinian demands.
Only when Israel acts in concrete fashion to shore up its stake in Jerusalem can the city be secured.