This article by Dr.Gerstenfeld was first published in Algemeiner, a much extended version of the original is posted here with the author’s consent.
RETURNING PATTERNS: THE TEMPLE MOUNT RIOTS
On July 14th, two Israeli police officers were murdered in Jerusalem. They were members of the Druze community, a religious and ethnic minority. The three Muslim murderers came from the town of Umm al-Fahm in the north of Israel.
They had hidden their weapons on the Temple Mount, where the Al-Aksa mosque, which is managed by the Waqf, a Muslim religious trust, stands. The three murderers were killed by Israeli police. The day before, one of the murderers had published a selfie where he stands before the al-Aksa mosque with the accompanying text, “Tomorrow’s smile will be more beautiful, God willing.”
Israel reacted to the murders by increasing security measures. Metal detectors were installed. The alternative would have been to wait passively until the next terrorists come to commit murder with the already proven formula of bringing in weapons and hiding them at this place of worship.
The installation of metal detectors led the Palestinian preachers to react by praying publicly outside the mosque on Friday morning July 21. Riots followed during which 3 Palestinians were killed and a number wounded. On July 21, a Palestinian terrorist murdered a Jewish father, seriously injuring his wife, also managing to kill their two adult children in the village of Halamish during their Shabbat meal. It is estimated that this terrorist’s family will receive more than US $3000 per month from the Palestinian Authority for tens of years to come. These payments are co-financed by Western countries.
In the meantime, the metal detectors have been removed. Due to the riots, Israel has instead opted to install more expensive and technologically advanced tools to detect weapons from entering the holy site in the future.
Despite the removal of the metal detectors the Palestinian riots in Jerusalem continued. More important however than the analysis of the specific recent incidents and riots is evaluating the reactions of several actors and recognizing returning patterns concerning these events.
In the past, the Palestinian Authority could control riots. The typical case in point was the second intifada which began in 2000. It was presented as a spontaneous outburst of Palestinians anger after the Temple Mount visit of Ariel Sharon, He was at the time a parliamentarian of the Likud which was then an opposition party. In 2001, however, the Palestinian Minister of Communications, Imad Faloudji, admitted that the intifada had been planned well before by the Palestinian Authority. All that was required was an adequate opportunity to start it. There are additional Palestinian confirmations of what Faloudji said.
Since then, the stature of the Palestinian Authrity and Mahmoud Abbas in the western world has increased further. In 2016, a large number of members of the European Parliament gave him a standing ovation after a speech there. This despite the fact that Abbas made an extreme antisemitic accusation against Israel about a Rabbi who had called upon Israel to poison the water of the Palestinians. Two days later Abbas had to admit that his libel was false. Palestinians had invented a fictitious rabbi.
Among the Palestinians, Abbas is seen as very weak. His Fatah movement supports the riots, partly because it fears losing even more influence if it does not. On the other hand, if the riots continue Abbas may lose control of them. He has cancelled the current security collaboration with Israel. Whether that is factually the case is unclear. Without the help of the Israeli security services, it becomes much easier for Hamas sympathizers to murder him.
Another returning pattern is the abuse of holy or protected places. During Israeli military campaigns against Hamas, the terrorist movement often hid weapons in mosques, universities and schools. This included schools of the UN agency UNRWA. Furthermore, in 2009 part of Hamas’ leadership hid in a Gaza hospital because they knew Israel would not target it. Hamas also uses civilians as human shields.
Yet another returning patterm is the behavior of foreign governments and leaders. Many excuse and condone Palestinian terror, incitement and violence. Others feel the need to provide condemnations or recommendations in such situations. Two examples: Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is a supporter of the terrorist organization Hamas. As soon as any opportunity presents itself, Erdoğan automatically condemns Israel. This time he said: “By occupying the al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel has exceeded the boundaries.” France issued an anodyne statement mainly to create the illusion that it is still an important international player while it struggles with critical domestic issues.
Another returning pattern is the behavior of foreign media that distort the facts of actual events. Media watch organization, Honest Reporting Canada, has established a detailed list of many such distortions in the Canadian media during the first days of the riots.
All the above confirms the opinion of many Israelis that a future peace agreement is useless. The Palestinian leadership may indeed one day sign such an agreement. It may then be quiet for some time. There will then be another occasion used by Palestinians for riots, violence and murder.
The Temple Mount riots have created a perfect model for such a pattern. Commit a crime against Israel related to Al Aqsa. If Israel reacts with enhanced security measures, announce that Al Aqsa is in danger. This can easily incite rioting. Israel however cannot undo its concessions made for “peace.” These are likely to include the removal of isolated West Bank settlements and an exchange of land in return for the larger settlements. That’s why the Temple Mount riots have strengthened Israeli feelings that a peace agreement is not a credible option.