What’s been happening in Israel over the past week, and especially the past 48 hours, closely mirrors what occurred in September 2000, when then-Opposition Leader Ariel Sharon ascended the Temple Mount and allegedly sparked the Second Intifada.
Allegedly because we now know that the Palestinians had been meticulously planning and preparing for a major outbreak of violence. They just needed the catalyst, and Sharon provided it.
Some argue that Sharon, like the Jewish nationalists now trying to gain control over two apartment buildings in Sheikh Jarrah, should not have gifted the Palestinian with the excuse they were seeking. (See: What Sparked the Trouble in Jerusalem?)
But that begs two questions:
- Must Israelis walk on eggshells in their own land?
- Should the rule of law be suspended when application of said law will spark a violent Palestinian tantrum? (The Supreme Court has ruled that the Sheikh Jarrah properties are indeed Jewish-owned, and it was not illegal for Sharon, or any other Jew, to ascend the Temple Mount.)
It’s no secret that Hamas and other Palestinian groups are just waiting for even the flimsiest of justifications to unleash violence upon Israel, even at great cost to their own people. Nor is it a secret that they are able to muster broad support and incite a worrying level of violence among Israeli Arabs. (See: Muslims Desecrate Synagogues in Central Israel)
These are serious underlying problems that decades of talks, negotiations and concessions have failed to resolve, and that remain impassable roadblocks to any viable final status peace agreement.
At the same time, a majority of Israelis just want to maintain a semblance of peace and quiet, and to get on with their lives. They don’t like having their husbands, fathers and children called up to war. Some blame the politicians for permitting “provocations” by hardline Jews, legal as they may be, for the sake of unmasking Palestinian intransigence, because the cost for all involved will be blood.
But if Hamas and the Palestinian elements now involved in setting the country ablaze won’t be moderated by talks and concessions, and are unmoved by the steep cost of war, then what’s to be done? It seems Israelis are left with only two other options:
- Tiptoe around Palestinian red lines at the risk of further emboldening Israel’s foes and having those red lines moved forward; or
Both are untenable.
Many Orthodox Jews believe Israel won’t and can’t fully control the Land until the coming of Messiah. Some insist that for this reason it was a mistake to establish a “State of Israel,” but that’s another topic of discussion. The events of the past week again demonstrate that Israel’s sovereignty in the Holy Land can be tenuous. Perhaps those rabbis are more right than we’d like to admit.
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