It is set to be a long, hot summer for Israel and the Palestinians

Fears of a serious escalation on the Temple Mount last weekend were unfounded — for now

June 06, 2019 11:33

A tense weekend in Jerusalem, with the last Friday of Ramadan followed by Jerusalem Day on Sunday, saw an uptick in violence.

Two Israelis were wounded in a stabbing attack on Friday and then, when a group of Jews were allowed to visit Temple Mount on Sunday, it caused rioting by Muslim worshipers at the Al Aqsa mosque.

But fears of a more serious escalation were unfounded. For now.

As June began, the temperature was already on Hamsin-level, but the new Palestinian Authority Prime Minister warned in an interview with the New York Times of “a very hot summer.”

The normally reserved economist was referring to the possible financial collapse of the PA, leading to its insolvency. If unable to pay civil servants, he said, “we will start by sending our security people home.”

This is hardly the first time that senior PA officials have threatened to end security coordination with Israel. Indeed, the coordination is as necessary for the Fatah-dominated authority to fend off a Hamas takeover, as it is for Israel.

But Mr Shtayyeh is not alone in anticipating a tense summer. Israeli security officials are deeply concerned as well.

A central cause of the PA’s financial crisis is Israel’s decision to implement a new law requiring it to deduct from the tax revenue it collects for the Palestinians a sum equivalent to that which the PA pays in benefits to the families of Palestinian prisoners.

Israel has tried on three occasions to get the PA to accept the deducted revenues, but the PA has refused to accept a shekel until Israel backs down and transfers the entire sum.

Unsurprisingly, and after much delaying, the Netanyahu government decided to implement the law shortly before the last election. The expectation was that with the election over, a solution would be found.

But Benjamin Netanyahu now finds himself in another election campaign, this time with a rival on the right-wing — in the shape of Avigdor Lieberman — who accuses him of weakness. That means almost certainly that the Palestinian tax issue will not be solved for months to come.

Meanwhile, the talks over a long-term solution in Gaza are stuck too, and once again a distracted Israeli side is a factor: Mr Netanyahu is prime minister and defence minister, while fighting an election and his own personal legal battle.

Hamas has been temporarily placated by an infusion of Qatari cash, but Gaza has a way of reminding everyone during Israeli election campaigns that it exists.

If not Hamas, then their rivals the Islamic Jihad could provoke another round of rocket firings and air strikes.

Seven months ago, Mr Lieberman resigned as defence minister, specifically over what he described as the prime minister’s weak response to rockets from Gaza, so that is another crisis waiting to happen that is unlikely to be averted before election day .17on September

It will be a long and hot summer.

June 06, 2019 11:33

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