Calm returns, but Palestinian ‘win’ could spell trouble ahead
AS MUSLIMS entered the Al-Aqsa compound last Friday, the moment of truth came for the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The security measures erected since the July 14 murder of two Israeli police officers — the metal detectors, fences, surveillance cameras — were gone, but only men over 50 were permitted to enter. Thousands of youths gathered once again in the alleyways leading to the compound, to pray under the watchful eyes of police.
The prayers over, nearly all of them dispersed quietly. A few scuffles broke out but these were brief. Violent demonstrations took place in the afternoon in several places in the West Bank, and on the Gaza border fence, where one Palestinian youth was killed, but these were also much smaller than the previous Friday. Another Palestinian trying to stab soldiers at the Gush Etzyon junction was shot dead — but this is what passes for relative calm in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The days since have been largely quiet as well; the visit of a record number of Jews to Temple Mount for Tisha B’Av on Tuesday morning passed off peacefully. The IDF presence in the West Bank was reinforced by additional battalions, but the feeling within the Israeli establishment is that, barring unexpected events, this round of violence is over.
A number of factors contributed to the brevity of this spate of unrest. On
the Palestinian side, there is still little appetite for more disturbances as the leadership is distracted by the worsening Fatah-Hamas relations and the prospect of President Mahmoud Abbas’ departure. Nearly 200,000 Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem work within the Green Line and they are reluctant to jeopardise their income.
Israel’s security forces have also
become more adept at containing rioting at isolated locations. In many cases, thanks to their monitoring of social media, they have succeeded in tracking down and apprehending attackers in advance. Further afield, other wars and mor e severe crises throughout the Middle East are depriving the Palestinian conflict of the oxygen of publicity. There is also the weather. This has been the
hottest July in memory and intifadas do not break out at the height of summer.
There is, though, an ominous sign. The Palestinians regard the Israeli decision to return to the status quo of before July 14 as a victory for their pressure on Israel. The next time something like this happens, Israel may not back down so easily. The pressure could lead to a much bigger explosion.
Israeli border guards keep watch over Palestinian worshippers the Al-Aqsa mosque compound