Shouldn't we be preparing now for this eventuality; without our support, Israel will not hesitate to ground them to dust

March 7, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Recent events in Jerusalem, Bibi’s heritage sites decision may spark great fire

Shaul Mishal

Published: 03.03.10, 09:47 / Israel Opinion,7340,L-3856678,00.html

Part 1 of article

There are fears that Jerusalem will be turning into the focal point of an outburst that would prompt the next intifada. It will be a civilian rather than armed intifada, although it may certainly escalate into a bloody uprising.

This intifada may spread like wildfire across the rest of the West Bank and its main centers of activity will be protests around the settlements and mostly near the security fence.

Bilin will turn into a focal point that will spread along the fence area.

There are indications already that attest to involvement and action by the Palestinian Authority government, and mostly by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, towards this type of activity. We are dealing with part of the political strategy he has been adopting for many years now: Establishing the Palestinian state without dialogue and cooperation with Israel, but rather, simultaneously.

This is manifested through the establishment of physical, economic and “military” infrastructure – the latter is materialized through security agencies whose activity is clearly apparent on the ground and often assisted in thwarting attacks, either on the part of Hamas or PA opposition factions.

Bibi learned nothing

Hence, the events on the Temple Mount, with young Palestinians – some of whom masked – barricading themselves inside the mosques and hurling stones in all directions, constitute a spark that can light a great fire within a very short period of time. We can point to several elements that contribute to this fire, including Israel. The declaration regarding the heritage sites initiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proves that he has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. His move also constitutes an insult to our patriotic intelligence – do we have to be reminded that we are indeed the people of this land? That we are citizens rather than immigrants? We do not need constant reminders that we belong in this country.

The fight over symbols heightens the tension on the Palestinian side, because it places on the agenda the absolute truths of both religions; Judaism on the one hand and Islam on the other. This kind of conflict has no solution whatsoever. We must not even touch it.

The safest and healthiest way is to keep these visions as values that cannot be materialized.

The Jerusalem factor

Israel, Palestinians must place Jerusalem at top of peace process agenda

Shaul Mishal

Published: 03.03.10, 18:01 / Israel Opinion,7340,L-3857273,00.html

Part 2 of article

In the wake of the establishment of the security fence, which created a buffer highlighting the separation between Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank, the capital has turned into a sort of separate Palestinian entity, alongside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In practice, four entities related to the Palestinian identity exist today: The West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and Arab citizens of Israel. This is how Jerusalem has gained special status and turned into a meeting place for all these camps.

Jerusalem’s sensitivity to any development related to ties between Jews and Arabs is compounded by growing international involvement, coupled with disagreements among various elements that on normal days belong to the same camp.

The US and Europe are divided over the required strategy vis-à-vis Israel in the face of its policy towards the east Jerusalem population. Europe does not see eye to eye with America’s policy nor with the soft US attitude towards Israel in respect to the latter’s approach to the population and real estate in the city – as highlighted by allowing Jewish takeover of homes housing Arab families in the east of the capital. The European Union is even prepared to support the PA and transfer funds earmarked for Palestinian construction and the acquisition of land as a step that counters Israel’s initiative to expand the Jewish hold on the area.

The internal tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, as well as the disagreements between the domestic Hamas and the group’s leadership abroad are also channeled to the Jerusalem theater, while each side attempts to ensure its presence and influence in the Palestinian arena. This is based on the assumption that this is where Palestine’s future will be determined. In addition, Jerusalem is a convenient location for open civilian activities compared to the Gaza Strip and to the West Bank.

Clock is ticking

The clock is ticking and we are approaching, with sure steps and eyes wide shut, a “White Intifada” that may be reminiscent of the velvet revolutions that took place since the end of the 1980s when several communist governments were toppled in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and east Germany within a few months. In Czechoslovakia, the communist government was removed. These revolutions cleared the way for similar revolutions that took place outside Europe too.

What can be done in order to prevent an outburst that will weaken Israel’s position in any future negotiations on the Palestinian question, and mostly on the matter of Jerusalem? As opposed to the current model of negotiations that started with the major issues of territory, settlements, and the right of return, with the question of Jerusalem being raised in the midst of all this commotion, the tables must be turned and we must start at the end.

We need to place Jerusalem at the top of the Israeli-Palestinian agenda. This is the source of hope as well as the source of trouble that needs to be contended with through leadership courage and historic soberness. We cannot beat around the bush, delude ourselves, and wink to the world outside that there are other ways to resolve this complicated story.

Perhaps the time has come to turn our four ministers without a portfolio into a strategic ministerial committee dedicated to addressing the Jerusalem problem. Moshe Yaalon, Yossi Peled, Benny Begin, and Dan Meridor are a leading group of people representing the full political spectrum and the solid collective logic needed in order to look history in the eye.

At first it will be difficult but later it will be as clear as day. What is unthinkable today will turn into something obvious the next day.

Prof. Shaul Mishal from Tel Aviv University is a Hamas and radical Islam researcher