Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Malice On The Mount: The Hate Behind The Latest Mideast Crisis

By Benny Avni
The New York Post
July 25, 2017

Being right isn’t always enough. And, as Israel is learning the hard way amid continued violence in Jerusalem and beyond, sometimes it isn’t even close.

Here, for those too busy with Washington scandals, is a recap of what officials in the Washington and the Middle East will try to prevent from turning into a holy war:
-- Last Thursday, three Israeli Arabs shot and killed two Jerusalem cops. The assailants then retreated to Islam’s third holiest site, the al Aqsa mosque compound. Israel later released evidence the killers, and perhaps others, used the compound to hide weapons.

--  After briefly shutting the compound, Israel installed metal detectors at the entrance. Palestinian leaders cried foul, urging the masses to shun the “defiled” mosque and flood the streets instead in “peaceful” demonstrations. Hamas called for active “resistance.” In the ensuing violent clashes with police, three Palestinians were killed, hundreds injured.
-- On Friday night, a Palestinian man entered a home in Halamish, a West Bank settlement, gruesomely stabbing to death three members of the Solomon family as they sat at their Sabbath dinner table.

--  Over the weekend, anti-Israel demonstrations spread across the Muslim world, from Morocco to Malaysia. A synagogue in Turkey was besieged. Israeli embassies were under lockdown.
-- In Amman, Jordan, a local carpenter working near the Israeli Embassy tried to stab a security guard Sunday. The guard shot and killed his assailant, who quickly became a local hero — a martyr “for al Aqsa.” After holding the embassy staff and demanding the guard stand trial in Amman (in violation of international conventions guaranteeing immunity), Amb. Einat Shlein and her entire staff arrived in Israel Monday evening.

The whole thing sounds crazy. Are they really going to start World War III over metal detectors?

Yes, it’s a holy site. But so is Mecca, which has metal detectors. And the Vatican. And many buildings in Manhattan and around the United States.

Yet on Monday the UN Security Council convened an “emergency” session on this new “threat to international peace and security” — and did so behind the safety of UN metal detectors.

This isn’t about metal detectors.

For the longest time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has utilized al Aqsa to manufacture Palestinian and Muslim rage. Cynically whipping up religious rage has always worked in a pinch for the man who has trouble holding the attention of the “Arab street.” Indeed, Abbas has never acknowledged Jewish ties to the Western Wall — or any place in Jerusalem, for that matter.

This time, Abbas was so outraged he announced the Palestinian Authority would be cutting all ties with Israel, including security cooperation. (Spoiler: It’s an empty threat. That cooperation keeps him in power, and alive.)

Given all that, is it really reasonable to expect Israeli leaders to anticipate and acquiesce to bogus complaints at the risk of Israel’s own security?

Well, in part.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly approved the metal detectors on recommendation from his police force. He brushed off warnings from other security quarters — his own intelligence officials and army brass — who warned that visible detectors would ignite more outrage than was worth it for the amount of security the magnetometers provide.

More important, Bibi acted unilaterally, failing to coordinate with his Palestinian and Jordanian counterparts. Jordan, after all, manages the mosques as result of an arrangement dating back 50 years, and which Bibi swears to keep.

Remember: Israel is a democratic Jewish anomaly in a despotic, largely Muslim region, where religion is used as weapon and where emotions, not facts, are currency. Jerusalem needs to calculate its moves with extra caution, and leverage regional alliances more effectively.

Also, we’re talking about a country that prides itself in finding creative, unconventional solutions to universal problems. Devices like hidden cameras that can use facial recognition to identify potential trouble makers, for example, may well provide better security than those ugly gates we’re so used to seeing everywhere else.

That approach seems to have resolved the crisis. First son-in-law Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt were said to be on the case, having helped secure the release of Israel’s embassy officials. And Israel on Tuesday agreed to remove the metal detectors while deploying other security measures.

This could work, lowering tempers for now. Hopefully, they’ll cool off before next Friday, when Muslim prayers may reignite flames.

In the long run, however, America’s right (and smart) move is to start addressing the follies of manufactured Muslim outrage and holding Abbas and the Palestinians accountable for their incitement that quickly turns campfires into forest fires. That, not security moves by Israel, is the true threat to international peace and security.


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