Jerusalem teeters on the brink of violent explosion

Monday, March 01, 2010 |  Israel Today Staff

Israeli defense officials on Sunday warned that Jerusalem and the rest of Judea and Samaria are teetering on the brink of a new Palestinian explosion of violence, and charged "moderate" Palestinian leaders like Prime Minister Salam Fayyad with fueling the unrest.

Four Israeli police officers were wounded on Sunday while battling rioting Muslims atop Jerusalem's Temple Mount. The Muslims had attacked Jews and Christians visiting the site in protest over Israel's decision to add the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem to its list of national heritage sites.

A day later, an Israeli security guard was shot and wounded in the nearby Jerusalem village of Silwan, known to Jews as the City of David.

Hebron and Bethlehem are today both under Palestinian Authority control, and the Palestinians, together with much of the international community, have condemned the Jewish state's decisions to officially recognize historical ties to those areas.

Fayyad has publicly labeled the decision a "provocation," and Israeli officials charge that behind the scenes he and other Palestinian leaders are encouraging Palestinian youth to take part in anti-Israel demonstrations using low-level violence.

That would fit with Fayyad's previous assessment that the Palestinians should return to "popular uprising" in place of organized terrorism, even while pushing for more Israeli concessions at the negotiating table.

Fearful of playing into Fayyad's hands, Israeli security forces have been instructed to practice extreme restraint in the face of Palestinians wielding stones, firebombs and even small arms. Riots in Hebron, Bethlehem and at the Temple Mount on Sunday have been put down with only minimal injuries.

But that didn't stop Jordan's King Abdullah II, another regional "moderate," from attempting to make the issue cause for a broad Arab and international campaign against Israel.

Meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Sunday, Abdullah described the Israeli police's defense of Christians and Jews atop the Temple Mount as "aggression" and a "dangerous provocation."

Abdullah urged the international community to mobilize against what he called Israel's attempts to overrun Muslim holy sites.

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