If Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas mean it when they say they don’t want to see a Third Intifada, why does it look like that is exactly where they are headed?
Each leader repeatedly accuses the other of incitement, often with good cause. Their protestations of purity and innocence as the injured party would be a joke if so many people weren’t being killed and injured on both sides.
Israel’s national police commissioner, Yohanan Dianino, blamed the ongoing violence on “incitement by extremists from all sides.” It's not just the extremists, it's also the two national leaders.
The latest round of violence began last spring with the murder of three Israeli youths by Palestinians and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists. That contributed to the summer’s Gaza war, Operation Protective Edge. The latest outrage was the killing of four rabbis and a security guard at a Jerusalem synagogue last week.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed earlier in a cloud of mutual recrimination and finger pointing. The chief US envoy to the talks put the bulk of the blame on Netanyahu’s aggressive settlements policies.
Abbas responded with threats to file war crimes charges against Israel in the World Court, calling its settlement construction “an act of war.” He also called the Gaza conflict a “war of genocide” waged by Israel, comments the State Department called “offensive” and “provocative.” Abbas’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, called Netanyahu a “filthy war criminal.”
Israeli cabinet ministers called Abbas a “Jew-hater who believes and promotes terror” and a "terrorist."
Abbas has accused Jews of "contaminating" the Temple Mount and trying to change the status quo on the plateau. He has demanded Jews be banned “by any means possible” from visiting the holiest site in Judaism for 3,000 years.
He ignored Netanyahu's repeated statements that Israel is "fully committed" to maintaining the religious status quo, and assuring that "Jews can’t go there to pray.”
The Palestinian Authority even told the international media to stop using the term “Temple Mount.” The only acceptable term is Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) , he said, because the plateau is “an internationally recognized part of the Occupied State of Palestine” and Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem is invalid.
It is part of the Palestinian campaign to delegitimize Israel, starting with denying its ties to Jerusalem.
Abbas has defined Jewish history in Jerusalem as a "delusional myth," and referred to the "alleged Temple." according to Palestine Media Watch.
There are few things Abbas could have said to incite greater Israeli anger and convince most Israelis, including what is left of the peace camp, that he is not serious about making peace.
Netanyahu is justified in calling such statements “incitement,” but he doesn’t stop at the egregious examples; he seems to apply it to every utterance of the PLO leader, even as his own inflammatory rhetoric and that of his own cabinet ministers keeps ratcheting upward.
The prime minister holds Abbas responsible for every act of Arab violence, but rejects responsibility for similar acts of Jewish violence.
Both leaders are too quick to blame the other for inciting the violence while turning a blind eye to the perpetrators on their own side of the barricades. Incitement is a two-way street that is well traveled in both directions by two leaders who seem to prefer lighting fires to putting them out.
The campaign to delegitimize Israel and deny Jewish ties to Jerusalem only strengthens the case for the Israeli right's opposition to Palestinian statehood.
Any fool can start a war, but it takes strong leadership to prevent one. Netanyahu and Abbas find themselves as the proverbial political bedfellows. If they stand up to the extremists in their own camps they could lose their jobs. So they keep pointing the finger of blame at each other and escalating their rhetoric. Feeding the beast is the least dangerous course, for them – but possibly the most dangerous for the people whose interests they claim to serve.