Ri­ots ‘not new in­tifada, just Pales­tinian pol­i­tics’

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

EX­PERTS BE­LIEVE THAT the out­break of ri­ots around the Old City of Jerusalem is not the beginning of a “third in­tifada”, but an at­tempt by Pales­tinian leaders to draw their pop­u­la­tion’s at­ten­tion away from re­cent gov­ern­men­tal de­ba­cles.

Stone-throw­ing and vi­o­lent en­coun­ters with po­lice be­gan in Jerusalem, in and around the Old City, last Sun­day, on the day be­fore Yom Kip­pur.

The ri­ot­ing be­gan when a group of French tourists en­tered the Al Aqsa Mosque com­pound on the Tem­ple Mount and ru­mours spread that “the Jews are try­ing to take over the mosques”.

Since then, con­fronta­tions have con­tin­ued spo­rad­i­cally be­tween Pales­tinian demon­stra­tors and po­lice, caus­ing dozens of ca­su­al­ties.

On Mon­day morn­ing, po­lice forces en­tered the Mosque area af­ter surveil- lance cam­eras caught piles of rocks that had been pre­pared for throw­ing on the tens of thou­sands of Jews arriving at the West­ern Wall for the tra­di­tional Suc­cot Birkat Co­hanim, or priestly bless­ing.

Jews are for­bid­den from pray­ing openly on the Tem­ple Mount and the Pales­tinian re­li­gious coun­cil con­trols the area.

T hi s has not stopped Pales­tinian move­ments ac­cus­ing Is­rael of try­ing to de­stroy the mosques by dig­ging be­neath them.

The main or­gan­i­sa­tion back­ing the ri­ots is the rad­i­cal north­ern wing of Is­rael’s Is­lamic Move­ment. The move­ment’s leader, Sheikh Raed Saleh, has re­peat­edly called upon Mus­lims to flock to the mosques and “de­fend them with their bodies”.

On Tues­day, he was broad­cast on Al Jazeera call­ing for all the Mus­lims in the world to ar­rive.

“We will not hes­i­tate to pay any price to de­fend Al-Aqsa,” he said.

The Is­lamic Move­ment is iden­ti­fied with Ha­mas but the leaders of the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity have also joined in the rhetoric, in­clud­ing PA Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas who said that “while Is­rael and world Zion­ism is pour­ing in bil­lions to buy up land in Jerusalem, the Arab ef­fort in com­par­i­son is weak”.

Jor­dan is wor­ried about the spread of the vi­o­lence to the Pales­tinian com­mu­nity which makes up three quar­ters of the king­dom’s pop­u­la­tion and has dis­creetly asked Is­rael to for­bid tourists and Jews en­trance to the Tem­ple Mount.

There have been calls to ar­rest Sheikh Saleh to put him on trial for in­cite­ment and out­law the Is­lamic Move­ment, in­clud­ing from In­te­rior Min­is­ter Eli Yishai and In­fra­struc­tures Min­is­ter Uzi Lan­dau.

But most se­cu­rity ex­perts be­lieve this will only cause fur­ther es­ca­la­tion.

“The ri­ots so far have been rel­a­tively mi­nor,” said one gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity ad­viser, “and they haven’t shown any sign of spread­ing out­side Jerusalem. The truth is that nei­ther the PA, nor Ha­mas, cur­rently have any in­ter­est in es­ca­lat­ing the vi­o­lence.

They only want to use the ri­ots for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses, to draw at­ten­tion away from Ha­mas’s mil­i­tary fail­ures dur­ing the Gaza fight­ing and sub­se­quently re­build­ing the Strip and the PA’s diplo­matic fail­ures.”

Sheikh Saleh was ar­rested for a few hours on Tues­day evening and charged with in­cite­ment but a Jerusalem judge or­dered his release on the con­di­tion that he keep away from the city for the next 30 days.

Masked Pales­tinian youths pre­pare to

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