The situation on the ground in Israel is far less hopeful than the armchair diplomats would lead the world to believe.
Khaled Abu Toameh reports that the Palestinian Authority leadership is behind a spate of religiously related violence in Jerusalem these past few days.
On Sunday, amid growing incitement and tension, Israel decided to close down the Temple Mount compound. Soon after about 150 Arabs, apparently from East Jerusalem and northern Israel, threw rocks and bottles at security forces near the Mount, and another 100 Arab men refused to leave the Mount before finally doing so in the evening.
On Monday, with the Israel police closing the Mount to Muslim male worshippers under 50 after finding wheelbarrows filled with rocks there, an Israeli border policeman was moderately wounded when stabbed by a West Bank Palestinian on a bus in northern Jerusalem. Stone-throwing incidents at Israeli worshipers and security personnel continued throughout the day. The events come amid rumors of Jewish plans to “take over the Mount” during the Jewish High Holiday season.
Behind the rumors, claims Toameh, are the upper echelons of the Palestinian Authority—desperate to deflect anger over the PA’s decision not to request a vote on the Goldstone Report at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The vote could have led to the report being discussed at the UN Security Council, a prospect Israel wants badly to avoid. The PA “rescued” Israel under intense pressure from the Obama administration, which appears to have accepted Israel’s argument that heavily penalizing it—as the report seeks to do—over the war in Gaza will make further territorial withdrawals impossible.
The Palestinian reaction, writes Toameh, has been “an unprecedented wave of condemnations and accusations of treason,” and “the violence…in the past few days can be seen in the context of the PA leadership’s attempts to divert attention from what a Palestinian minister described as ‘one of the worst scandals since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.’” Israel indeed arrested one senior Fatah official, Khatem Abed Al-Kadr, on suspicion of inciting the violence.
The situation, then, is rich in irony. Concerned that peace was on the line, the U.S. administration leaned on Israel’s ostensible peace partner not to take what looked like an irredeemably hostile step. The result of even this passive compliance by the PA is that the peace of Jerusalem is once again broken in the holiday season. A reasonable conclusion—that “peace” in the sense of a final settling of differences is nowhere in sight and should not be an active policy goal—remains nowhere near, of course, being adopted by the U.S. administration and others axiomatically committed to the “peace process.”
Apart from what can be found in age-old holidays and autumnal air peace has, indeed, been elusive these days in the real Israel that exists beyond the diplomatic clichés and fantasies. Despite efforts to contain it, the Goldstone Report is already wreaking havoc with Defense Minister Ehud Barak having been advised by Israel’s justice minister last week to cut short a visit to Britain after a Palestinian “human rights” organization tried to get him arrested there. Barak stayed for his visit, and a British court rejected the bid on grounds of his diplomatic immunity.
Vice-Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon, however, appears less confident than Barak and has already canceled a visit to Britain next month for fear of being arrested. Yaalon calls it “a campaign whose goal is to delegitimize the state—first via [earlier suits], and then in legal efforts to use the Goldstone report to harm those involved in Operation Cast Lead.” Or as Phyllis Chesler put it, “If this is not dealt with, then Israelis will be walled up into a new kind of ghetto.” An Israeli official legal team is now dealing with a thousand lawsuits facing Israeli military and political leaders around the world.
“Peace” was also disrupted by Hamas’s release, in return for the freeing of 20 female Palestinian security prisoners, of a video of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In it the wan Shalit addresses the Israeli people and his family in Hamas-scripted words. Neither the reality of his over-three-year captivity nor the relentless swirl of media reports about deals involving the freeing of 450, or 1000, terrorists does much to instill serenity.
And when lurking behind it all is the unkindest cut—the U.S. president swallowing Iranian stalling tactics hook, line, and sinker—the peace of Jerusalem indeed seems better relegated to the realm of prayer than to the ongoing march of evil and folly in the political sphere.