There are no easy fixes

November 24, 2016 23:20

Tuesday's sickening attack marks a new peak in the growing tide of violence in Jerusalem. The murder of Arab teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir in July - revenge for the killing of three Israeli teens - was the principal trigger, and extremists on both sides challenging the status quo on Temple Mount (Haram-al-Sharif) have contributed to the tension.

The violence has generally taken two separate but linked forms. The first is riots by East Jerusalem youths. The second is increasingly frequent deadly attacks by individuals - sometimes linked to terror groups, but also, apparently, acting independently - using vehicles, knives and firearms.

Israel's response has security and political dimensions. On security, there are limited new tools available given the already heightened measures in place, but the government is pouring uniformed personnel into the city.

The lone, lethal attackers, however, pose a particular challenge - invisible to intelligence and striking without warning. Israel is left with blunt tools of deterrence, including the renewed practice of demolishing perpetrators' homes, which divides the security services as to its effectiveness.

Politically, Israel's response is to blame Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for incitement, and with some justification. Unlike Hamas, or his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, Mr Abbas does not directly call for or organise terrorism, and crucially, his security forces continue to prevent widespread disturbances in the West Bank.

But when the would-be assassin who shot Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick was killed in a police shootout last month, Mr Abbas praised him as a "martyr". Days earlier, he had called on Palestinians to prevent "settlers" from accessing the Temple Mount "by all means". This week, Palestinian Media Watch reported that an adviser to Mr Abbas, Sultan Abu Al-Einein, had praised the terrorists on his Facebook page.

Despite the charges of incitement from Israeli leaders, Shin Bet Chief Yoram Cohen said this week that "Abu Mazen is not interested in terror and is not leading to terror".

Mr Abbas, Benjamin Netanyahu, King Hussein of Jordan and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on steps last Thursday to lower tension. Israel dropped age restrictions on Muslims visiting the Al Aqsa last Friday, and Mr Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining the status quo.

But at moments like this, with blood on the walls, factors such as the absence of a political solution, and the inadequate provision for Arabs in East Jerusalem, regrettably get pushed aside.

November 24, 2016 23:20

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