It all might lead nowhere, as so many flare-ups have, but as the week dawns it’s worth taking stock of unrest in and over the West Bank and Jerusalem. It started Friday, when (false) reports on right-wing Israeli sites of plans to push Muslims from the Temple Mount prompted Palestinian rioting at the holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City and a subsequent confrontation in Ramallah, in the West Bank, that led to the death of one Palestinian man.
On Saturday, riots following the man’s funeral led to a crackdown, several injuries, and an uncharacteristically fiery speech from Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, perhaps looking to bolster his credibility amid reports that President Abbas will also be interim prime minister of a forthcoming unity government with Hamas. “While the international community and the Quartet issues statements only,” Fayyad said, “the killing of Palestinians, settlement expansion, land confiscation, house demolitions and settler terrorism among other violations of international law seem to continue.” (Again, it’s rare for Fayyad to do things like this.) Then, in a speech Sunday in Qatar, Abbas accused Israel of trying to erase evidence of Palestinian connections to Jerusalem and implied that there is doubt about the existence of the Jewish Temples. (Arafat used to say the same thing; still, one wonders if Abbas isn’t trying to smooth the reconciliation with Hamas.) Prime Minister Netanyahu dubbed the speech “severe incitement” and insisted, “Under Israeli sovereignty, Jerusalem will continue to be open to members of all faiths.”
There have been other incidents. On Saturday, two off-duty Israeli soldiers were attacked and nearly killed by a gang of Arabs. Following in Khader Adnan’s footsteps, another alleged Palestinian Islamic Jihad member held by Israel with no formal charges pledged a hunger strike. Yesterday, an activist named Fadi Quran who has very publicly advocated nonviolent resistance was arrested, seemingly while protesting nonviolently. Quran is a Stanford grad who, for example, appeared on the popular video-blogging Website Bloggingheads (which I used to freelance for). Such bona fides don’t necessarily make his arrest any worse than another’s (although his acting nonviolently does), but it would be naïve to suggest they won’t serve to amplify it.
Ironically, an annual Israeli intelligence report dropped yesterday warning of a Third Intifada in the context of the deadlocked peace process, the ongoing Arab Spring (now, admittedly, entering its second actual spring), and Palestinian Authority-Hamas unity. “The dead end in talks between Israel and the Palestinians, along with quiet on the security front, has led many cabinet ministers and right-wing groups to wonder aloud about the possibility of maintaining the status quo,” reported Haaretz’ Avi Issacharoff (a Tablet Magazine contributor). “To their minds, continuing security cooperation with the P.A., along with certain continued economic benefits and improvement in the quality of life in the West Bank, will help keep things quiet for many years to come.
“But,” he added, “they do not take into account Palestinians’ extreme frustration in light of the lack of diplomatic progress. That frustration leads to unrest over every issue—such as a hunger strike by a Palestinian prisoner—and might lead to many more protests.”
Palestinians Clash With Police at Jerusalem Holy Site [NYT]
Fayyad Criticizes Quartet’s Mideast Peace Policy in Wake of Palestinian Death [Haaretz]
Abbas Declares Diplomatic War on Jerusalem [Arutz Sheva]
Netanyahu: Abbas Speech on Jerusalem Was ‘Incitement’ [Haaretz]
Free Fadi Quran [Freemic]
The Arab Spring Comes to Israel [Atlantic Robert Wright]
Israeli Intelligence Report Warns of Increased West Bank Violence [Haaretz]
New Palestinian Protests Indicate West Bank Unrest Is Due to Erupt [Haaretz]
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.