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Netanyahu’s failed game of brinkmanship

Jul 25,2017 - Last updated at Jul 25,2017

It took a diplomatic crisis with Jordan, following Sunday’s killing of two Jordanians by an Israeli embassy guard in Amman, to finally dislodge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position on Al Haram Al Sharif, two weeks after the far-right government adopted a controversial decision to install metal detectors at the entrance of the holy compound.

And until he and King Abdullah finally resolved the crisis, Jerusalem’s Old City had endured two weeks of tensions that began with the July 14 deadly incident in which two Israeli policemen and three Palestinians (Arab Israelis) were killed.

Israel’s two-day closure of Al Aqsa Mosque enraged Palestinians and drew criticism from around the world. It sparked tensions between Jordan, which has a special role over Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, and Israel.

Against the advice of his own military, Netanyahu went ahead with what everyone else knew would become a dangerous flashpoint.

Installing metal detectors at the entrance of the compound sent a message of defiance to Palestinians, Jordanians and Arab states: that Israel has the final word when it comes to the sensitive issue of Al Haram Al Sharif and, by extension, the fate of East Jerusalem

It was a stupid gambit that led to confrontations between Israeli security and Arab residents the city, culminating in last Friday’s violence that resulted in hundreds of injuries and at least three deaths among Palestinians who were protesting the Israeli measures.

Still, Netanyahu refused to budge even as he insisted that he was committed to preserving the historical status quo of Al Aqsa.

Meanwhile, protests in the Old City continued, and it was clear that they would not stop until Israel backed down.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed not to allow Israel to change Al Aqsa’s status and announced that the PA was freezing all contacts with Israel.

But the situation is especially sensitive for Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel.

Jordanians are known for their anti-Israel stand, and on
July 21, thousands marched in the capital and elsewhere to show
solidarity with Al Aqsa.

Jordan’s special role over East Jerusalem’s Muslim sites has been compromised as a result of Netanyahu’s move.

It was not the first time that King Abdullah has to intervene to defuse tension in the Old City over Israeli provocations in and around Al Haram Al Sharif.

In 2014, Jordan and Israel, with US mediation, reached an agreement that would put an end to Israeli provocations.

As usual, Netanyahu failed to honour the deal.

It is important to underline that the conflict is not about installing metal detectors or CCTV cameras.

The crux of the issue has to do with sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which is an occupied territory under international law.

Israel insists that East Jerusalem is an integral part of its unified
capital, while Palestinians see it as the capital of their future state.

Both Jordan and the PA have scored important diplomatic victories at international forums where Israeli unilateral actions in East Jerusalem, and in particular the Old City, were deemed illegal.

This was one battle that the Arabs, and in particular East Jerusalem’s Arab residents, could not afford to lose.

The timing was important because Netanyahu and his far-right ministers were hoping to make use of the current regional turmoil to underscore their extremist stand over East Jerusalem, the Old City in particular, and Al Aqsa Mosque.

Whoever visits the Old City knows that it resembles a military garrison, especially on Fridays, and that stringent security measures do exist at its ancient gates.

The metal detectors at Al Haram Al Sharif have little to do with added security and more with radical Israeli positions.

For embattled Abbas, whose decades-old bet on Israel delivering an honourable peace deal is yet to come true, siding with his people and empathising with their anguish was his only choice.

Israel has been altering the character of the Old City for years and its apartheid-like policies against East Jerusalem’s Arab residents have upset the existing demographics.

In reality, the status quo of the Old City and East Jerusalem has been tampered with.

Palestinian anger is a culmination of years of humiliation, economic strangulation and despair.

The crisis with Jordan, especially after Sunday’s embassy incident, has put Netanyahu in a tight spot. He backed down and in effect suffered a resounding defeat.

What we saw was a foolish attempt at brinkmanship by Netanyahu; one that could have unleashed a new Palestinian Intifada and jeopardised Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan.

Meanwhile, Arab states should do one main thing, other than keep the diplomatic pressure on Israel, and that is to support the steadfastness of Jerusalem’s Arab residents.

 

 

The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

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Comments

As along as injustice is still continues against muslim world, world will not safe, at all, muslims are suffering everywhere but nothing well doing,look at what they're doing on Al-Aqsa masjid.However,let the so called peace keepers, UN,NATO and others go there and keep those places instead of Israel please.

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