With incidents of Palestinian violence growing in recent weeks, Israelis are wondering now if the Jewish New Year that is just beginning will soon bring with it a new war with Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Hamas has been hard at work in recent months digging new terror tunnels and fortifying the strip with Iranian assistance. But the decision of the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas to try to compete with the Islamists by ramping up tensions in Jerusalem has made a renewal of last year’s fighting an even greater possibility. But rather than seek to calm these tensions, the United States has been largely silent about Abbas’s incitement as well as Iran’s role in stirring up more trouble. Just as troubling is the way the United Nations Security Council has reacted to the dispute over the Temple Mount. Last week, it issued a statement that made it clear the international community has no respect for Jewish rights in the holy city. But it also indicated that it is openly siding with Palestinians who are seeking to use this issue as a way to stir up even more hatred against Israelis and Jews. The willingness of the Obama administration to acquiesce to this disreputable stand shows its untrustworthiness as an ally as well as the dangers that lie ahead for Israel should the president seek to restart peace talks.
Any discussion about the Temple Mount must begin with an acknowledgment that Israel has sought to preserve the unsatisfactory status quo whereby the holiest spot in Judaism remains under the sole authority of a Muslim Wakf. Jews are prohibited from praying on the site, a rule enforced by Israeli police. But not even this is enough to satisfy Palestinian radicals who routinely harass non-Muslim visitors and subject Jews who dare to ascend the plateau to constant abuse. Just as bad, the mosques there have been used as staging areas for Arab violence with stones and firebombs stored there. While a minority of Jews has agitated for the right to pray there, the “hardline” Netanyahu has resolutely opposed them. But it has been forced to step in to forestall violence on the Temple Mount, which overlooks the Western Wall Plaza.
But as they have done throughout the last century, Palestinian leaders are using the Temple Mount to fuel more hatred by claiming that Jews are trying to destroy the mosques. Even supposed moderate Abbas said this week that he was seeking to prevent “filthy Jewish feet” from desecrating holy places and did so without criticism from the Obama administration that has lauded him as a force for peace. The number of incidents in which Palestinians used firebombs or stones to attack Jews, included one in which a 64-year-old Jewish man was murdered on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, is rising. Not to be outdone, the possibility of Hamas using its massive rocket arsenal to up the ante with both Israel and Abbas’s Fatah Party may bring the region to the brink of another war.
Yet faced with this crisis, the UN Security Council issued a statement that both ignored the truth about what is happening on the Temple Mount. The Security Council referred to the Temple Mount — the site of the biblical Holy Temples — upon which Muslim conquerors subsequently built mosques only by its Arabic name, the Haram al-Sharif. This is a blatant denial of both Jewish and Christian ties to the site. Nor did it mention that Palestinians who seek to deny not only Jewish rights but also Jewish history in Jerusalem solely initiated the violence there.
It ignored the question of Jewish rights and merely stated that the “Muslim worshippers at the Haram Al-Sharif must be allowed to worship in peace, free from violence, threats, and provocations.” This is absurd since no one is threatening Muslim worshippers there with violence. To the contrary, it is the Palestinians who are threatening the Jews as well as seeking to prevent Jews from exercising their rights.
But while this latest example of UN bias against Israel might be dismissed as meaningless, it is actually quite significant. Palestinian leaders seeking to foment a wave of religious hatred against Israel will only be encouraged by this kind of international support to step up their incitement. Moreover, they cannot have failed to note that the United States went along with this sort of one-sided approach to a dispute in which the Palestinians are the ones who are seeking to escalate.
This does more than give Abbas an incentive to keep stoking the fires of hate in order to make his faction appear to be as militant as Hamas. It may provide the justification for more terrorism against Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank that will be viewed by Palestinians as a defense of their religion. Just as last year’s war began with violence in the West Bank, there is always the chance that the same pattern could repeat itself leading to more bloodshed.
But even if the cease-fire with Hamas holds and all Abbas will do is to posture and threaten without more violence, this stance on Jerusalem by the UN and the United States is a portent of future diplomatic trouble for Israel.
By treating the Temple Mount in this manner, the U.S. is signaling the Palestinians that they need not moderate their stance on seeking Jerusalem’s division should peace talks ever resume. It also illustrates the fallacy behind expecting the Palestinian Authority to respect Jewish rights even in the event that they were prepared to sign a peace agreement. This effort is more proof that the goal of the Palestinians isn’t just to re-partition Jerusalem but rather to deny Jewish claims and evict hundreds of thousands of Jews from their homes in the currently undivided city.
Of course, that is a purely theoretical problem since Abbas has repeatedly showed that he will not agree to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. But it does undermine Obama’s rationale for pressuring Israel to bribe the Palestinians to come back to the peace table should that be on the top of his agenda when he meets next with Prime Minister Netanyahu in November.
By backing Abbas in his effort to needlessly inflame Muslim sentiments about Jerusalem, the UN and Obama are playing with fire. If the president truly cares about peace, instead of backing Abbas’s incitement, he should be issuing a clear warning to the Palestinians that he will support Israel’s effort to crack down on terror. Anything less than that will constitute a green light to both Fatah and Hamas as they continue pushing the region down the road to more conflict.