Same Old Refrain
Posted Thu, Mar 18, 2010

Once again Jerusalem is not quiet. Its familiar sounds are back: The ringing of the church bells is deafened by the sound of the muezzin calling once again for the protection of Jerusalem from the Jews. The “day of rage” declared in Jerusalem this week (March 16) was a repeat of the violence of the “Days of Rage” in 2000, which led to the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada (which has never officially ended). The history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is written like a deterministic script. Nothing has changed. The roots of the struggle are unfortunately religious, so the chances of a political compromise that would allow a stable co-existence over a long period of time are considerably smaller.

In September 2000, the Palestinian Authority started the terror war called “The al-Aqsa Intifada: Independence and Return”, after it incited the masses to conduct violent riots by claiming that then MK Ariel Sharon “defiled” the al-Aqsa mosque when he visited the Temple Mount. Then (just like now) strident claims about the Jews “defiling” the holy places of Islam on the Temple Mount were sounded. Even now (just like then) these statements are meant to remove the demon of violence from the masses, while in the background are threats to renew attacks inside Israel and open a third armed intifada.

Arab leadership in Israel is taking a peculiar policy. It warns against a wave of violence, argues that Israel’s actions are an implicitly justified cause for violent protests by the Palestinians, and calls the Israeli government to stop construction in Jerusalem in order to calm the situation. One thing they are saying remains unintelligible. Why not directly call on the Palestinians to stop violence? Even if the rights of any citizen have been trampled by the authorities, this does not justify acts of violence and mass murder. In Israel, like any other country, authorities sometimes expropriate land from its owners for the benefit of the public, for purposes such as road paving, construction of shopping centres and more. There are some citizens who feel, rightly or wrongly, that the state deprived them of their rights, and to that end they retain the right to go to court and a higher court of the judicial system. In the Palestinian context, there is a sharp transition between the sense of deprivation and acts of violence and terror. The Arab leadership places the responsibility for the violence on the victim, Israel. A strange logic: Hug the Thug, the Palestinian edition.

The crisis between Israel and the U.S. was surprising both by its gravity as well as the massive American pressure on Israel for the most trivial affair. It is quite obvious that the Americans’ motive is not the “insult”, but rather the administration’s attempt to exploit the circumstances to advance political goals at the expense of Israel. The Obama administration feels the Israeli government’s weakness and is interested in fully exploiting it by forcing concessions on Israel at the political level. The Americans have a serious problem: Their only trump card in the Palestinian arena is Abu Mazen and the fragile Palestinian Authority. In the background Hamas is threatening to devour the cards also in Judea and Samaria. On the other hand, the government of Israel does not see and/or can not move substantially on the political level, because it does not trust the Palestinian Authority that has not given up on the vision of the liberation of all of Palestine by the return of refugees, and is not ready to reach a real compromise with Israel. The current Israeli policy is therefore perceived in Washington as threatening America’s vital interests. The problem does not end there, because as the United States (Israel’s main strategic back) distances itself more and more from Israel, it conveys a message of Israeli weakness and a golden opportunity to put pressure on it. In other words, the temptation for another intifada is greater than even before.

Jonathan Dahoh-Halevi
Fellow and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs , head of research of the Orient Research Group Ltd., investigative journalist and an activist in the Jewish and Israeli communities.

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