Regaining control in Jerusalem

Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, April 25, 2014.

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The Netanyahu government has become too accepting of Palestinian violence in the city and too tolerant of Wakf chutzpa on the Temple Mount. Israel’s hesitancy in dealing toughly with the provocateurs and their PA government sponsors leaves us with a deleterious and deteriorating net result: Israel’s control (never mind sovereignty) over the united city is fraying.

I salute Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky for tenaciously pursuing the American government in order to have their son registered as having been born in Jerusalem, Israel – a case which they are now taking for a second time to the US Supreme Court.

But the real struggle over Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is underway every day in Jerusalem itself. At present, Israel is evincing a weak hand and losing the battle.

Last Friday, Tova Richler of New York arrived in Israel to attend her father’s funeral in the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in eastern Jerusalem. En route to the burial site, near the Gethsemane Church junction, her car was pelted with rocks and bricks by ten Arab youth, smashing the windows. She escaped alive but missed the internment.

In recent years, such attacks have become commonplace in and around the hallowed cemetery, and many people are afraid to travel to funerals and memorial ceremonies there.

The French Hill neighborhood which borders on Hadassah Mount Scopus Hospital also has become unsafe. Residents are harassed by Arab youth from nearby Arab neighborhoods, and there have been many robberies, repeated arson attacks and car stonings, a firebombing, and a stabbing.

Anybody who has traversed the new road from Benzion Netanyahu junction through Beit Hanina also knows the dangers. Stoning is not uncommon, and red traffic lights are apparently mere decorations to the neighborhood’s Arab residents.

The greatest affront of all has been playing itself out almost every day this month on the Temple Mount in the Old City, where Arab youth regularly accost Jewish visitors to the site, and have taken to almost-daily stoning of Israeli police. The Arabs have even been caught stocking stones and other riot gear inside the mosques.

Outrageously, the police response to these attacks has been to close the Mount to Israeli-Jewish visitors and tourists – instead of closing it to Arab visitors.

And of course, illegal Wakf excavations continue on the Temple Mount without Israeli archaeological supervision. We know that over the past decade the burrowing-out by the Wakf of the underground “Solomon’s Stables” has wantonly destroyed thousands of years of Jewish relics and history.

It seems that the Palestinians are neither willing to countenance live Jews on the Temple Mount nor dead Jews on the Mount of Olives.

The radical Arab imams behind these disturbances and provocations have the full backing of Mahmoud Abbas’ supposedly-moderate Palestinian Authority. PA Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud Al-Habbash and PA Mufti Muhammad Hussein constantly propagate lies about Israeli plans to undermine and destroy the Moslem shrines on the Mount.

The former Chief Justice of the PA’s Religious Court, Sheikh Tayseer Al-Tamimi, recently declared that the PA’s Islamic belief and political position is that Jews should not only be prohibited from praying on the Temple Mount but at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount too, since the Wall is part of the “blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque” and not part of any “alleged” ancient Jewish temple.

All the while, Arab residents of greater Jerusalem enjoy the full gamut of Israeli civil rights and privileges, including freedom of speech without threat from Abbas’ goons, full Israeli national insurance and health coverage, and municipal social services. Arab Jerusalemites can also be found by their thousands shopping happily in every mall in the city and picnicking in every park, free of threat.

Undoubtedly, the troublemakers are a minority of Arab Jerusalemites. But Israel’s hesitancy in dealing toughly with the provocateurs and their PA government sponsors leaves us with a deleterious and deteriorating net result: Israel’s control (never mind sovereignty) over the united city is fraying.

Government caution in managing Jerusalem’s delicate political and security affairs is understandable, given the tinderbox status and contested future of the city. Yet it seems that the Netanyahu government has let things slide too far. It has become too accepting of Palestinian violence in the city and too tolerant of Wakf chutzpa on the Temple Mount.

Like his political party boss, Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich (Israel Beiteinu) is good at talking, but has taken little action. Why aren’t the Israel Police, for which he is responsible, decisively enforcing law and order in the city? If Aharonovich and the Israel Police Commissioner can’t muster the determination to tackle the string of security incidents, they should be replaced.

Safety and security on all roads and at all sites in the city is a basic right of Israeli citizens of all religions and ethnicities, and the state has an elementary duty to provide this – even in Jerusalem; especially in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s responsibility goes further. Beyond beefing-up Israel’s security presence in the trouble spots and ending Palestinian violence, the Netanyahu government must act proactively to cement Israel’s hold in the city; to signal the world that we are serious about keeping Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.

The government should move to establish a (long-overdue) Jewish prayer facility alongside the Moslem mosques on the vast Temple Mount plaza, and to build the strategic E-1 quadrant that connects Jerusalem to its eastern security anchor in Maale Adumim.

These initiatives will engender Palestinian (and American) resistance, but with both resoluteness and sensitivity Israel can succeed and overcome the opposition. The initiatives will also give Israeli and Palestinian diplomats something to talk about besides the release of Palestinian terrorists and other outrageous, never-ending Palestinian demands.

Only when Israel acts in concrete fashion to shore up its stake in Jerusalem can the city be secured.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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