Mushir al-Masri, speaking as a Hamas representative from the Al-Aqsa Mosque, declared that should United States President Barack Obama visit the Temple Mount during his excursion in Israel, it will be equivalent to a declaration of war on the Arab and the Islamic world. He demanded that there should be a declared third intifada and requested Egyptian assistance in the “resistance” of such a desecration by the American President take place. Khalid al-Batash, a senior Islamic Jihad member, also called to prevent Obama from visiting the compound. And these were not the most definitive of warnings. Sheikh Akrameh Sabri, former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and current head of the higher Islamic council was quoted by AFP warning, “Any visitor is welcome to Al-Aqsa, but they should follow the regulations of the Waqf and enter through the Lions’ Gate and not through Mughrabi Gate, to ensure Muslim sovereignty. The visit shouldn’t have a political theme to it because Al-Aqsa belongs to Muslims only and it is their place of worship and we refuse that any Israeli official accompanies the visitor.” Hatem Abdel Qader, head of the Jerusalem portfolio for the Fatah movement, said that Obama’s visit should be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority and with the Jordanians.
With such demands and even the somewhat overt threats makes one wonder if President Obama will simply avoid making any visit to the Temple Mount and what kind of result would such produce. It can be expected that should President Obama not visit the Temple Mount at all just to assure that he does not insult Islam or the easily riled Palestinians that such will be interpreted as a slight and a surrender to Israeli pressures which obviously had advised the President not to risk a visit. Whether or not the Israelis actually gave such advice will be of no consequence, the expressions of anger and reaction to insult is all that matters. Why else do the different Palestinian groups and even individual spokespeople make contradictory statements which when taken in full cover every possible action or lack of action as insulting and offensive to Islam and the Palestinian cause. These statements, demands and counters are made such that after President Obama has returned to the United States the Palestinians can choose which demands or warnings were transgressed and have the appropriate riots and violence targeting Israelis as the responsible and guilty party. The Friday riots after services on the Temple Mount were far more violent, viscous and animated this week and included not only the usual rock throwing and riots but also included Molotov cocktails and greater numbers and severity of attacks against security personnel stationed around the Temple Mount. This should be viewed as a warning of violence to come and a preliminary riot on which to build upon at a later date.
There has been an increase in violence with an emphasis on attacks in Judea and Samaria that has been escalating for the past weeks. There has been a definitive rise in rock and firebomb attacks on motorists and Israeli housing and crops. Some have already referred to these increased acts of violence as the beginning of yet another intifada. It is very likely that such is actually the case and that the plan is to use President Obama’s visit and some otherwise unimportant event as the trigger for the third (some say the count is as high as six) intifada. Additionally, there will be some within the leadership of the Palestinians will also blame Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for having formed a coalition which they see as unhelpful and biased against the Palestinians. This will be the complaint no matter which parties are included within the coalition and even with Tzipi Livni, one of the most likely to offer unprecedented concessions in peace talks, being placed completely responsible for any peace talks or other dealings between Israel and the Palestinians. Prime Minister Netanyahu is likely making this decision relying of Mahmoud Abbas to refuse any offer no matter how generous that Tzipi Livni would offer. This is another reason for another intifada as starting such violence would likely scrub any possibility of restarting the peace process while such increased violence is occurring. The Palestinians also are likely counting on the rest of the world, especially the Europeans, to demand Israeli gifts and concessions in order to end the violence and entice the Palestinians back to the negotiating table and restarting the peace process. We have seen this act so many times over the years that one might be tempted to think that it would not still work. The truth is that as long as Israel is being forced to sacrifice the Europeans and much of the world will gladly demand such sacrificial acts despite knowing they will be fruitless and will not engender any advances in the peace talks. But first, will President Obama actually visit the Temple Mount and if so which gate will he use? Then comes the other point of inquiry, will he attend to the Temple Mount with security provided by Israel or by the Palestinians and depending on which, how safe should President Obama feel?
Beyond the Cusp