MidEast

Week in Review: Waqf, Palestinian Authority Ratchet Up Temple Mount Tensions

Waqf, Palestinian Authority Ratchet Up Temple Mount Tensions

Given the tense atmosphere that prevailed in Jerusalem after three Arab Israelis killed two Israeli police officers on the Temple Mount last Friday, it would have been reasonable for the Palestinian Authority to call for calm. But the Temple Mount—home of al-Aqsa Mosque—has long been a rallying point for violence against Israel, and eminently sensible security measures instituted after the lethal attack instead became fodder for incitement by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinian Authority. Predictably, violent clashes erupted in Jerusalem this Friday, with Palestinians throwing tires, rocks, and Molotov cocktails at security forces. Later in the day, a Palestinian terrorist brutally murdered three Israelis—a father and his two children—in their West Bank home. The mother is in serious condition.

What sparked the outrage? For two days following the last week’s attack, Israel took the rare step of closing the Temple Mount—where security forces said they found a stockpile of weapons, including a submachine gun—and installed metal detectors at entrances to the complex. Previously, only the Mughrabi gate—the lone entrance to the Temple Mount that non-Muslims are permitted to use—was outfitted with metal detectors.

While the Palestinians objected to the move, the White House released a supportive statement and praised Israel’s commitment not to change the status quo of the holy site.

In an effort to pressure Israel and perhaps encourage more discord on the streets, the Waqf—an Islamic trust that cares for the Temple Mount—told Muslims not to enter the Temple Mount until the metal detectors are removed. The Israeli government did not back down, and kept them in place for Friday prayers.

Security video released during the week showed that the three Arab Israeli attackers got their guns from an unidentified accomplice who brought them onto the Temple Mount and left them at al-Aqsa Mosque, confirming the need for metal detectors. MK Yaakov Perry, the former chief of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, said this week that the metal detectors were installed out of “pure security” considerations, not political ones.

The Palestinian Authority called for a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday and, as the weekend approached, called for “rage for al-Aqsa.”

“As Arab leaders fan the flames of discontent for selfish political gains,” Arsen Ostrovsky and Aviva Klompas wrote in an op-ed at The Tower, “the international community, beginning with every Western head of state, must urge Palestinian and Arab leaders to act responsibly and call for calm. Anything less is to be complicit in the violence that is sure to follow.”

U.S. Reluctantly Certifies Iran’s Compliance With Nuclear Deal

While the Trump administration found Iran to be in violation of the spirit of the 2015 nuclear accord, it ultimately certified on Monday that Iran was complying with its terms. This is the second time that President Donald Trump has re-certified the deal, which he was highly critical of on the campaign trail.

Trump actually came very close to killing the deal. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was initially about to announce the re-certification, Trump called it off, Eli Lake reported. “He wanted to know his options and what would happen if Tillerson didn’t make the announcement,” Lake explained.

If the administration had not re-certified the deal, Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the deal or to strike it down altogether. But Congress was not prepared to deal with that eventuality.

Not only was Congress unprepared for the administration to find Iran not in compliance, neither were the other nations that are party to the deal. James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, who has advised Trump on foreign policy, told Benny Avni of The New York Post that if the administration pulls out of the deal, it will have to implement “full regional strategy” to replace it and that this will require engaging allies, including those who signed the deal.

According to the Corker-Cardin legislation, the president must certify every three months that Iran is in compliance with the deal. The next time to certify will be in October. Will the Trump administration have enough members of Congress and allied nations on board by then, whether by pointing out Iran’s nuclear violations or its increased regional aggression, to axe the deal or change its terms?

Radiohead Ignores the Scorn, Performs in Israel

Thom Yorke, the outspoken lead singer of Radiohead, was restrained when he spoke of the band’s visit to Tel Aviv despite protests by anti-Israel boycotters. “A lot of stuff was said about this. But in the end, we played some music,” Yorke said before launching into the band’s final song of the night.

Radiohead, which achieved worldwide renown after its song “Creep” became a major hit in Israel, had been urged by proponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign—notably Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters—to cancel their Tel Aviv show.

Despite these efforts, many major acts played in Israel over the past year. Radiohead performed shortly after Guns N’ Roses, which closed out its world tour in Tel Aviv. In recent months, Rod Stewart, Britney SpearsJustin Bieber, and Aerosmith all performed in Israel.

The BDS campaign usually fails in its effort to discourage musical acts from playing in Israel. While some musicians appear uninterested in the boycotters’ message, others, like Yorke, are offended by their “patronizing” attitude.

BDS is also failing on a larger scale, with foreign investment in Israel tripling since the campaign began in 2005.

Feature: From Ancient Ruins, a New Conversation Emerges

When Reverend Juan Solana, director of the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, decided to open a hotel for Catholic pilgrims in Israel’s Galilee, he never dreamed that the location he chose would offer a window into the land’s Jewish past.

Driving by the ancient site of Magdala, Solana noticed that an old resort was for sale and decided that it would make an excellent site for his hotel, Sarah Toth Stub wrote in the latest edition of The Tower Magazine.

In 2009, after collecting enough funds to realize his dream, Solana called on the Israel Antiquities Authority—a routine step meant to ensure construction would not damage any ruins. To the reverend’s surprise, the archaeologists uncovered the remains of the ancient city mentioned in the Talmud and bible, complete with its famed fish market, a synagogue, and a harbor.

This changed Solana’s plans. The town was also the reputed home of Mary Magdalena, one of the first followers of Jesus. So he decided to open the Magdalena Institute, which is devoted to “promoting the dignity of all people and especially of women.”

“This is a crossroads of Judaism and Christianity,” Solana said of the ancient city. “And unlike other places, Magdala offers us the real thing. This is not just based on thoughts or ideas, but on tangible facts.”

“We hope there is a building of bridges here,” said Jennifer Ristine, who runs the Magdalena Institute. “We are not out to solve the political conflict. But maybe in a certain sense it can be an oasis of peace here.”

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Three Big Questions

Isn’t it ironic that as the “moderate” Palestinian Authority accused Israel of exercising too much control over the Temple Mount, the terrorist group Hamas acknowledged (albeit inadvertently) that Muslims enjoy “complete” freedom of religion in Jerusalem?

The Washington Post published at least three articles in defense of anti-Zionist Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour following her recent controversial call for “jihad.” This, despite the fact that anti-Zionism—the denial of Jewish rights to self-determination—is increasingly being recognized as anti-Semitism. Notably, the Post has yet to report on the ordeal of journalist Gretchen Rachel Hammond, who lost her job as a reporter after exposing anti-Semitism at the recent Chicago Dyke March. Don’t those who expose anti-Semitism deserve at least as much attention and support as those who espouse it?

Will the families of Muhammad Ahmed Muhammad Jabarin, Muhammad Hamad Abdel Latif Jabarin, and Muhammad Ahmed Mafdal Jabarin—the three Arab Israeli terrorists who murdered policemen Hail Stawi and Kaamil Shnaan at the Temple Mount last week—benefit from the increased aid the PA is designating for families of terrorists in 2017? (As Israeli Arabs, their families would get an extra bonus.)

[Photo: Times of Israel / YouTube]