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Israeli politicians at odds as Jerusalem tension rises Open in fullscreen

Riya Al'sanah

Israeli politicians at odds as Jerusalem tension rises

Young men take shelter as clashes continue [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 November, 2014

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Residents warn of 'a quiet intifada' as ultranationalist Jews attempt to access Muslim holy sites.

Rising tension and violence in Jerusalem is bringing to the fore contradictions and conflicts within the Israeli political establishment over how to deal with security challenges arising from its ongoing occupation.

On Wednesday morning a Palestinian man rammed his car into two groups of pedestrians, killing an Israeli border police officer, in the second such attack in a fortnight.

In both cases, the drivers were shot dead at the scene.

Following the attack, Israeli police set up concrete barriers and roadblocks in occupied East Jerusalem and deployed thousands of officers across the city.

Naftali Bennett, Israeli minister of economy, said he would prefer to adopt a strategy of deterrence rather than defence.

The solution is not the Iron Dome concept, but an iron fist," he said in a Facebook post. The "Iron Dome" is the missile defence system used by the Israeli forces on the Gazan border.

Shuli Mualem, a member of Bennett's Jewish Home party, visited the al-Aqsa mosque compound on Monday, accompanied by tens of security officers.

No one can stop a Jew from exercising his basic rights of worship at a holy site," she told reporters shortly after she was confronted by Palestinian protesters.

Mualem's visit comes amid a series of marches and demonstrations by far-right Jews of the messianic right wing challenging Muslim sovereignty over the holy site. Not only have their provocative actions elicited a heated and sometimes violent Palestinian response, but they have also divided Israeli opinion.

On Wednesday 29 October, a Palestinian man attempted to kill Yehuda Glick, one of Israel's most prominent activists seeking to build a third Jewish temple on the al-Aqsa compound. Israel claims it was the site of the two ancient Jewish temples, the second of which was destroyed during the Roman era.

Jews are banned from entering the complex, known to Jews as theTemple Mount, by both the police and the country's chief rabbinate.

Glick's ultranationalist supporters have organised marches through Jerusalem's old city.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that he had no intention to change the status quo at the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque. However, the fact that Bennett and Mualem are part of the coalition of far-right and religious parties on which Netanyahu has built his coalition government indicates the divisions within the Israeli leadership.

In a surprising statement, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's firebrand foreign minister, called on politicians not to inflame the situation at al-Aqsa mosque by calling for Jews to be able to pray there.

"If you have paid attention, neither I, nor members of my party have gone up to the Temple Mount," said Lieberman. "We have not issued calls for Israel to exercise sovereignty there."

The recent showdown around the holy sites in Jerusalem has not happened in isolation. The city has been on edge for months, with almost daily clashes since the summer murder of a Palestinian teenager by Israeli settlers.



A quiet intifada is taking place in Jerusalem
- Shuafat resident

Israel has increased its military presence and restrictions in the city.

Ron Ben-Yishai, an Israeli military correspondent, called to "move the war into the neighbourhoods", while admitting such a push would lead to demonstrations, riots and anger.

"We must be present there" to prevent future attacks, he said.  

According to Mahdi Abdul Hadi, head of the Palestinain Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, Netanyahu's alliance with the far-right has led to increased provocations in the city and further militarisation of the city.

A resident of the Shuafat neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem said that there was a heavy Israeli security presence across the city.

"There are at least 60 Israeli policemen in front of my house," he told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"Every time I step out of my house I have to go through a security check."

Since Wednesday's attack, which fuelled unrest across occupied East Jerusalem, police have arrested 188 people, 71 of them children, an Israeli police spokeswoman said.

"There are no youth in Jerusalem anymore, they are all in jail or under house arrest," said the Shuafat resident.

"A quiet intifada is taking place in Jerusalem."

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