October 7, 2009
Israeli security forces are on high alert for a fresh round of Muslim unrest centering on Temple Mount on Friday, Oct. 9.
The arrest Tuesday night, Oct. 6, of the Israeli Islamic leader Raed Salah on charges of inciting the four-day Muslim rampage on Temple Mount - and sedition - was a point up for his partners, the Palestinian Hamas. The pose Salah struck of a Muslim hero defending al Aqsa mosque (against a fabricated assault) rallied Islamist support. Although an Israeli magistrate released Salah on bail - in defiance of the Israel police's application to hold him as a public menace - and although he was barred from entering Jerusalem for 30 days, the Israeli Muslim leader lost no time in adding "martyr" to his performance as hero.
Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in Ramallah took a couple of days to catch up with the Hamas-backed campaign. Tuesday, his spokesmen loosed a torrent of abuse, accusing Israel of igniting the Palestinian unrest which swept out from Temple Mount to Jerusalem's suburbs and hauling out their old war cry: "The Jews are plotting to tear down al Aqsa and rebuild their temple!"
Abbas has taken a ton of flak for the Palestinian Authority's consent to the postponement of a UN Security Council debate on the Goldstone war crimes report on the Gaza conflict earlier this year.
Caught wrong-footed on two counts in the Palestinian street, Abbas hopes to put things right by cashing in on the Jerusalem unrest for political gain:
1. The mosques are administered by the Muslim Waqf (religious foundation) while the Temple Mount site is under Israel's security control. The Palestinian leader will use Jerusalem as the most burning issue in the way of peace negotiations and present Israel as incapable of maintaining security and order for Muslims to pray in their mosques on Temple Mount. He will claim Israel prevents Muslim worship at al Aqsa when in fact the authorities have closed the site to Jewish worship. When the US envoy George Mitchell arrives Wednesday night, Oct. 6, he will be confronted with these grievances.
2. It will serve as the pretext for the Palestinians to lobby for Temple Mount to be declared an exclusive Muslim shrine off-limits to members of other faiths. Gaining this point would be one up for Abbas' Fatah over Hamas.
Since giving up the ancient site of the two Jewish temples is unthinkable for Israel - and Muslim leaders will never heed the Israeli rabbi's call for the heads of the three monotheistic religions to work together for a solution - Palestinian and Israeli Muslims will keep the unrest simmering.