TEMPLE MOUNT TREMORS
The Temple Mount crisis of July was not a one-off event, but a mid-sized earthquake, which is continuing to produce aftershocks.
Aftershocks include a stabbing terror attack in Yavne, in central Israel, and a gun attack on an IDF lookout tower in Judea and Samaria.
The crisis began with a deadly terrorist attack on Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, carried out by three Arab Israeli gunmen. It escalated further when Israel installed metal detection gates at the site.
The crisis has magnified the trend of lone-wolf terrorists, a phenomenon that is better described as family cell or inner circle terrorism, since one relative or acquaintance recruits or inspires another to act.
The crisis was orchestrated by Islamist movements, particularly the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. It is no different at its core from the leaders of Hamas, or other extremist Sunni Muslim Brotherhood movements.
The Islamists in Israel used the Temple Mount crisis to create a shock event that is severe. Like their brethren in neighboring countries, Islamists seek to destroy the state in which they live.
This places the Israeli government under a new obligation to reconsider its approach to the Islamic Movement. The banning of the Movement’s problematic components was an important implementation, but it inefficient in and of itself.
SYSTEMIC FAMILY DETERRENCE
Israel needs to create in-depth deterrence against potential terrorists in the Arab Israeli community. Citizens of Israel who commit terrorism betray their country and act out on their lack of recognition of it. Israel needs to think outside the box to extend deterrence to the attackers’ family members.
Relatives of terrorists who express verbal support for such actions should have their citizenship revoked and face deportation, and be banned from any public sector employment.
A state cannot nourish murderers who seek to harm it.
East Jerusalem, which was the focal point of the Temple Mount unrest, has calmed down. But new catalysts for violence could soon appear. Due to the sensitivity of the Temple Mount issue and its potential to bring out masses of rioters onto the streets, Israel must exhibit caution in how it deals with the holy site.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) took several preventative measures, including arrests of Hamas operatives, to prevent more acts of murder. Still, the Temple Mount crisis continued to influence the security situation.
Within the popular Palestinian narrative, a victory was achieved over Israel, when the Israeli government complied with Palestinian demands to remove metal detectors at the site and to decrease tensions. Contrary to that narrative, however, Israel’s reversal does not mean it will be unable to act decisively in future events of this kind.
The coming month, which began with the Tisha Be’av Jewish mourning day for the destruction of the two Jerusalem temples, and which will end with the Muslim Eid Al-Hada sacrifice holiday, is framed by two religious events that increase the potential for unrest.
These ongoing sensitivities surrounding the Temple Mount are joined by an added layer of tension, which exists within the Palestinian arena, between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria. A look at the struggle between them helps clarify how each of them tried to leverage the Temple Mount crisis to their advantage.
HAMAS VS. PA, MIXED WITH DAHLAN
Hamas has been suffering from major regional isolation, causing it to retreat significantly from its once popular stance in the Arab world. It is also suffering from many challenges to its domestic regime in Gaza, such as cash shortages, and insufficient development and infrastructure.
A new formula may see Hamas exit its isolation. Under it, Egypt’s President Abdel Fatteh Al-Sisi would accept Hamas as Gaza’s ruler, and Hamas would respect Egypt’s national security, and accept a return to traditional Palestinian power institutions.
This agreement is being facilitated by Fatah figure Muhammad Dahlan. It is predicated upon setting new elections for the Palestinian Authority, after a decade of no voting.
These events pose a threat to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas views Hamas and Dahlan as two sides of the same coin, and considers both to be his enemies, rather than Israel.
As a result, Abbas has cut all services to Gaza, including electricity and economic-welfare payments.
The Temple Mount crisis was seen by Hamas as a means of igniting Muslim unrest within Israel,and spreading disorder and chaos in Judea and Samaria, via Hamas’s supporters there, and those who join them.
Abbas displayed acrobatic flexibility in dealing with these events. He began by condemning the Temple Mount terrorists, but later reversed his position, encouraging mass protests, and reaching out to the Palestinian street by positioning the PA as the event’s leader.
Fatah, meanwhile, produced severe incitement through the release of non-stop messages, the likes of which have not been seen for a very long time. This is an indication of Abbas’s sensitivity to the Temple Mount crisis, and how he viewed it as a threat to his rule.
The PA was able to quietly contain incidents in Judea and Samaria, and was pleased when the crisis ended, as it understands that a continuation would undermine its existence.
JORDAN HAS OTHER IDEAS
The recent visit by King Abdullah of Jordan to Ramallah is an act of support for Abbas, and a counter-balance to the emerging Egypt-Dahlan-Hamas triangle. That triangle is not only a threat to Abbas; it runs contrary to Israel’s interests as well.
Jordan, for its part, prefers the PA over the prospect of chaotic changes on the ground orchestrated by Hamas. Abbas has proven throughout this crisis that he remains an effective and decisive leader.
STABILITY IS KEY
Ultimately, Israel, the PA, and Jordan all share a common interest; stability. They need stability to keep out extremist Sunni and Shi’ite radical forces that surround the area.
Israel needs to confront the PA with clear demands regarding a cessation of incitement. But keeping security – civilian coordination in place with the PA remains a key Israeli interest.
This coordination serves a wider goal, to prevent the rise of radical movements, the kind of elements that would like to use the Temple Mount crisis to spread terrorism and instability.
Coordination with the PA not only keeps such elements in check; it also allows Israel to prepare for and monitor the disturbing rise of the Iranian influence to the north and the east of Israel.
Edited by Yaakov Lappin
Co-Edited by Benjamin Anthony (www.oursoldiersspeak.org)
Notice: The views expressed above do not represent the views of the IDF or the Foreign Ministry. They are reflective solely of the views of the author.