Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon seemed to believe that an order to Jewish cabinet ministers and Knesset members Thursday, Oct. 8, to stop visiting Temple Mount would be the winning step for de-escalating the current Palestinian rock-throwing, firebomb and stabbing rampage.
They were wrong. No sooner was the order released than it became a boomerang. Israeli Arab lawmakers announced that they would visit Temple Mount and Al Aqsa regardless. In Jerusalem, within minutes, another Israeli was stabbed and badly hurt in Jerusalem opposite police national headquarters and, a few hours later, a female soldier and four others were attacked b a Palestinian wielding a screwdriver in Tel Aviv. A passing air force officer chased the fleeing assailant and shot him dead.
The prime minister's order gave the Israeli Arab community’s political leaders an opening for joining the campaign waged on behalf of the Palestinians by the radical Israeli Islamist movement, led by Sheikh Raad Saleh for making Temple Mount into a flaming shared anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish arena of confrontation. The Temple Mount issue gave Israeli Arabs a legitimate pretext for demonstrating their solidarity with the Palestinians in their campaign of anti-Israel terror.
If Netanyahu hoped that elected Arab lawmakers would be responsible enough to lend a hand in a move meant to quench the flames of violence and save lives, he missed the point.
Israeli Arab lawmaker Jamal Zahalke, chairman of the United Arab faction, made straight for Temple Mount, only to be stopped by police at Lions Gate (the scene of two fatal stabbing attacks against Israelis) and barred entry.
He thereupon pulled out a press release and intoned: “I am standing at Lions Gate after being unlawfully prevented from entering Temple Mount. I don’t give a fig for Netanyahu and his decisions.”
Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi announced that he would lead a large group of prominent Israel Arabs on a visit to Temple Mount the next day, Oct. 8, to attend Friday prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque. He dismissed the prime minister’s gesture as “crazy.”
By snatching at the lead role of the current Palestinian campaign of terror, with all its murderous dimensions, the political representatives of the Israel Arab community have crossed a red line which until now they prudently avoided.
Once they present themselves at the gates of Temple Mount, the clock can’t be turned back in a hurry.
Zahalke and Tibbi become part of the rampaging Palestinian street over which no one has overall control.
The seven security forces battalions subject to the Palestinian Authority assert limited control over segments of that street – but no more. No one at PA headquarters in Ramallah has any say in the Palestinian street; neither does any Arab ruler in the region.
This explains the hollowness of calls by Israeli opposition leaders Yitzhak Herzog, Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and Amos Yadlin to seek a “regional accommodation” for resolving the Palestinian question. The Kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan and the Egyptian president are overtaxed by their own burning problems and have made it clear that they have no time for the never-ending Palestinian question.
So it’s over to Israel. The Netanyahu government needs to get its act together and shift its focus to curbing Palestinian violence by an effective counter-terror strategy – away from counter-productive steps for deterring Jews and hoping against hope for diplomatic points overseas.