The al-Aksa Intifada

The intifada has been in the making for years already.

Palestinian relatives of Mohammed Abu Ghannam, who was shot dead during clashes with Israeli forces, mourn during his funeral in the A-Tur area of east Jerusalem, on July 21, 2017. (photo credit: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
Palestinian relatives of Mohammed Abu Ghannam, who was shot dead during clashes with Israeli forces, mourn during his funeral in the A-Tur area of east Jerusalem, on July 21, 2017.
(photo credit: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)
The Third Intifada, aka the al-Aksa Intifada as the Arabs prefer to call it, is not just another abstract concept dealing with a threat that might materialize at some point in the future. This intifada has been in the making for years already, like a barrel of explosives whose extremely long fuse was lit a long time ago. Although we’ve been able to detect its fumes for some time now, Israel’s merely been dribbling a few drops of water on them here and there. Unfortunately, this method hasn’t help put out the flame, or even slowed the countdown to the impending explosion.
But the progression of the flame toward the explosive is inevitable, since there are too many Islamist extremists and war-hungry fundamentalists who are fanning the flames.
They use slanderous slogans and lies to incite violence, money that’s channeled to them for defamatory campaigns, and media strategy that is so cleverly deceptive it should be taught in communications departments in universities worldwide.
On the one hand, we have the Palestinian Authority, which has been trying to achieve full authority over the Temple Mount as part of their campaign to establish Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. Following the lead of Mahmoud Abbas, for years the Palestinian Authority has been spreading lies about Israeli intentions to take over the Temple Mount and alter the status quo.
Then there is Hamas, whose operatives are working day and night in the West Bank to incite Palestinians to violence and ignite the area with two main goals in sight.
Their first goal is to gain power and status among the Palestinian public and be perceived as the savior of the people in anticipation of a regime change in the West Bank.
Their second goal is to lead the Muslim struggle for sovereignty over the Temple Mount in order to receive complete control over the site in the future.
In addition to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, there is a third puzzle piece: the Jordanian Wakf Islamic trust, which is of course backed by the Jordanian government, which has no real need or demand to have sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Its real aspiration is to preserve its power and its international status in the Muslim world as protector of holy places. To that end, Abdullah King of Jordan occasionally claims that the State of Israel intends to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.
A fourth contender is the Islamic Movement in Israel, which is led by its Northern Branch.
This organization has been declared illegal by the government, but continues to operate under a bogus name under the leadership of Sheikh Raed Salah. For years, this faction has been leading the incitement against the State of Israel’s alleged intentions to take control of the Temple Mount compound, and its official slogan is “al-Aksa is in Danger.” The Islamic Movement receives funding from Turkey and Qatar to incite and call upon Israeli Arabs to fight against the Zionist occupier that is threatening to conquer the Temple Mount.
The fifth contender is extremist Arab MKs who are calling upon Israeli Arabs to come and fight to “defend” the Temple Mount compound. In their incredible insolence, and after incessant incitement, they claimed that they’d warned us many times that such an outbreak was likely to occur, as MK Osama Sa’adi reiterated.
There are also a number of organizations that operate both in and outside of the Temple Mount according to a similar principle. All of the extremist Muslim organizations have been following a clear anti-Israel line for years.
Their main goal is the complete liberation of the Temple Mount from Israeli control and its return to full Arab Muslim sovereignty. It’s clear that this scenario is unlikely to take place in the foreseeable future, but even if it were theoretically possible, then an all-out Muslim world war over control of the Temple Mount would break out between Palestinians and Israelis; between Jordanians and Palestinians; and among all of the people who yearn to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East on the ruins of Israel and the other countries in the region.
It’s clear to everyone that the installation of metal detectors is not the real issue, but merely an excuse they’ve been seeking for years to start another intifada. The world has already forgotten – or didn’t know in the first place – that three Israeli Muslim Arabs murdered two Israeli policemen who were securing the compound entrance.
No one understands that Israel made the decision to bolster the security at the entrances to the Temple Mount after the murderous terrorist attack took place, in an effort to prevent additional attacks from occurring at sensitive, holy sites. It’s clear to everyone – including Muslims – that securing the compound and preventing attacks is in everyone’s interest, especially of the Muslims who actually enter the site.
The truth is that all the Muslim leaders know very well that the State of Israel has not had in the past and has no plans to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. The mosque is still intact, all the Muslims are still allowed to pray freely everywhere on top of the Temple Mount, and not one thing has changed except for the fact that the Israeli authorities would like to prevent another murderous attack from taking place in this sensitive location.
It is fundamental that Israel not concede on this matter. Conceding on this matter will not end with the removal of all the metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount.
A concession will only lead to their demand that we also remove all the cameras so as not to invade the privacy of worshipers. And what would the next demand be? To refrain from placing any policemen at the entrances to the Temple Mount? Removing policemen from the entire compound and putting a halt to all inspections? A demand to remove all Israeli security forces from the entire city of Jerusalem and having the Wakf and Palestinian intelligence agents take control of security? Retreating all the way to the Mediterranean Sea and evacuating the entire country for the sanctity of an Islamic caliphate? Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic Movement, the Arab MKs, and all the other radical operatives have no intention of halting their struggle to liberate the Temple Mount from Israeli occupation until the entire compound is completely under Muslim control.
It is common in these types of situations for one attack to trigger another. The ongoing incitement encourages young, frustrated Arabs to go out into the streets and carry out unplanned attacks, such as the one last week in Halamish. And in the end, everyone ends up pointing their fingers at Israel. Something is defective in our public diplomacy and our approach to the various media if we are perceived as the illegitimate occupier of Muslim holy places.
Unfortunately, isolated attacks will continue to take place here, and Muslim extremists will continue to sell their wares and encourage all Muslims to join an all-out war against Israel. We have a long struggle ahead of us, and we must not falter or blink even for a moment.
Israel must do what it needs to in order to protect itself, including providing hermetic protection of the Temple Mount by any means necessary. Israel must demonstrate that is has complete control over every part of the country, including by taking a tough stand against all acts of incitement, which are not currently being suitably handled. And we must accomplish all of this without adding fuel to the fire and harming innocent civilians.
If we are determined and courageous in our struggle, we have a chance to come out victorious.
But we can settle for just not losing.
The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.