Netanyahu’s missed opportunity

Netanyahu removed the metal detectors from the Temple Mount. Israeli soldiers can once again be shot and slaughtered there. Ignominious is the label that best describes Netanyahu’s surrender: The security and sanctity of Judaism’s holiest site has been profaned; sovereignty has been ceded to mobs that turned Jerusalem into a battlefield; and the blood of patriotic Druze soldiers has been sold cheaply.

Analysts who greet the lull in violence that this decision brings are fools. This is a humiliation that will not avoid bloodshed. Instead, it will fuel Arab demands and Arab violence over coming months. The Waqf, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas did their very best to turn metal detectors into the casus belli that would galvanize the Arab masses against Israel. Each hoped to reap another intifada. They should not have been let down.

A good casus belli is as crucial to the victory of a nation as a modern air-force and a reliable intelligence service. Yet an intifada launched to protest metal detectors on the Temple Mount would have been armed with a lousy casus belli. Mainstream public opinion in North America, Asia and Europe would not have understood how essential security measures on the Temple Mount could justify a violent insurrection. Any escalation of bloodshed – as seen in Halamish- could have been effectively portrayed as representing Islamist fanaticism. An intifada started under this premise, and without the support and solidarity of international public opinion, would have been quashed quickly by Israel. Thus this intifada would have been shorter than all previous ones.

Indeed, international public opinion believed that Ariel Sharon’s stroll on the Temple Mount triggered the intifada of 2000. Footage of an Islamic holy site being trampled upon by a hawkish Israeli general convinced the world that Israel was the guilty party – even though the intifada had been planned in advance by the Palestinian Authority. The casus belli that Sharon provided the Palestinians was worth his weight in gold. International sympathy for the intifada became a key factor in fueling Palestinian violence, long after it was clear that this violence would fail to intimidate Israelis.

The first intifada followed a similar pattern. The PLO had prepared years in advance of 1987 an uprising in the West Bank. The casus belli was provided by a trivial incident – namely a traffic accident caused by an Israeli military vehicle in which 4 Palestinians died.  Although this incident was not as mediatic as Ariel Sharon’s stroll on the Temple Mount, it enabled Arabs to successfully frame their violence as a legitimate uprising against relentless Israeli abuses. This legitimacy led to the ill-fated Oslo Accords.

On the other hand, an intifada of the metal detectors would have been a spectacularly unsuccessful intifada. World public opinion, reeling from Islamic terror attacks around the world would have blamed the Palestinian side for any escalation. President Trump would have been impressed by a resolute and self-confident exercise of leadership by Israel‘s Prime Minister. Israel’s international reputation and legitimacy would have emerged stronger than ever.

Unfortunately,  the current prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu has failed the test of history. The Arabs, the Americans and Israeli public opinion now understand that Israel’s leadership will cave under pressure and surrender to extortion. Israel’s leaders have traded honor for peace. They will reap both dishonor and war.

In the near future Hamas and the Palestinian Authority will readily exploit any telegenic incident to trigger another intifada: it could be caused by a traffic accident as in 1987, by a Jewish “provocation“ as in 2000, or by any other set of circumstances that captivates Arab and Western public opinion.  When this intifada breaks out, it will be long, bloody and more dangerous than any conflict that could have escalated last week. Ominously, it could be ended by the negotiation skills of an American president who has called Netanyahu‘s bluff and now knows that when push comes to shove Israel retreats more rapidly than the Palestinian Authority.

Principled and patriotic government members should quit the coalition to protest Netanyahu’s dishonorable appeasement. Hopefully, these resignations will lead to new elections and usher an Israeli leadership that values peace with self-respect.

About the Author
Rafael Castro was born in Italy and earned a degree in Economics at Yale and a masters degree in Political Science at Hebrew University. In addition to working in the development aid sector, he has years of experience in the German IT industry and has written op-eds for over 5 years at YNET.