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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Thursday, August 24, 2017

Palestinians and Arab MKs declared ‘victory’ Tuesday as Israel reversed security measures at the Temple Mount, and said their struggle for control over the compound also extends to the Western Wall.

MK Taleb Abu Arar (Joint List) stressed that “Jews have no rights at al-Aqsa Mosque,” and added that Muslims’ fight against Israel would continue, regardless of the cabinet decision to remove metal detectors from the entrances to the Temple Mount compound.

“This is a proven fact, [even if] some people are trying to re-write history in order to strengthen their mistaken claim to legitimacy over al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as to the occupied al-Buraq Wall (the Western Wall), which Muslims demand to be returned to our sovereignty.”

MK Masud Ganaim (Joint List) said the decision to remove the metal detectors, placed at the site following the murder of two policemen on July 14, was a “victory for the Palestinian public’s struggle and the demonstrations.

“It was a victory for the steadfast religious leadership and a victory for the political leadership in Jerusalem,” Ganaim said.

Ganaim’s declaration of victory closely matched views on the street in Palestinian cities in Judea and Samaria. One resident of a refugee camp south of Jerusalem told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that Arabic-language traditional and social media were abuzz with the “triumph” over Israel.

“In general, and as I see in the Palestinian news and social media, Palestinians consider it as a triumph,” said the individual, who spoke to TPS on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals for “collaborating” by speaking to an Israeli media outlet. “The Israeli government changed its mind about the magnetometers and metal detectors after a huge popular pressure represented by the refusal of using them to get into al-Aqsa.”

Another source, from a different region of Judea and Samaria, added that many Palestinians were angry at Jordan for agreeing to negotiate with Israel following the attack on the Israeli embassy , which he called “the killing of the Jordanian man at the Israeli embassy.” He also said that Palestinian society has been rife with conspiracy theories over the metal detectors since the crisis first surfaced.

“People saw the magnetometers as the beginning of Jewish dominance of al-Aqsa,” said the second source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. They also spread rumors about the cameras themselves, saying they would show the Muslims as fully naked, and that Jews would then see Muslim women nude.

“Unfortunately,” said the first man, who added that he enjoys close relationships with Israelis, including settlers, “the Israeli message to Israeli society over all this is to understand the bitter truth: The Palestinians, the Arabs and Muslims will not accept the concept of sharing the Temple Mount between both Muslims and Jews.

Jerusalem Mufti Mohammed Hussein said in a statement that Islamic officials would not consider the issue closed until Muslims had the right to enter the al-Aqsa compound unfettered by any Israeli security measures, and demanded a commission of inquiry to study “Israeli aggressions” on the Temple Mount.

Israel Radio reported that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) will convene his advisors this evening to discuss the crisis. Abbas also dispatched veteran Fatah spokesman Nabil Shaath to the Israeli media to push the Palestinian position.

“Israel’s actions at al-Aqsa Mosque are intended to serve Israel’s political needs, under the guise of security,” Shaath said.

But according to some observers, the only party that matters on the street in eastern Jerusalem in the current instance is the Jordanian-administered Waqf, who are seen as having beaten Israel in the standoff over al-Aqsa.

Even before the current crisis, Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority were deeply unpopular amongst Palestinians, both for maintaining security collaboration with Israel and for failing to provide a political outlook. The Waqf’s successful demand for Israel to abandon security demands following a terror attack is likely to delegitimize the PA even further in the eyes of many Palestinians.

“The Waqf has emerged from this as an authentic Jerusalemite leadership group, and the strongest one” said Eran Tzidkiyahu, a licensed tour guide who specializes in Jerusalem who has served as a special adviser to various religious leaders, including the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land, the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Waqf and Religious Affairs.

“If we assume that the metal detectors were removed as part of a deal between Jordan’s King Abdullah, who ‘officially’ controls the Temple Mount, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, then we can only draw one of two conclusions: Either the Waqf’s ongoing refusal to end the crisis has Abdullah’s stamp of approval, or the Waqf is trying to capitalize on its newfound (and unexpected) power to develop its own positions in order to poke its finger simultaneously in the eyes of both the King and the Palestinian Authority. The second scenario seems likely to me,” Tzidkiyahu said.

In a related development, dozens of Hebron residents took over the Hebron building known as Beit Hamachpela late Tuesday afternoon, in what they said was a response to the massacre of three members of the Salomon family in Neve Tzuf on Friday, according to a TPS report.

Some 15 families are believed to have entered the three-storey building near the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which settlers say they purchased from private Palestinian owners. In 2015 however the IDF Civil Administration rejected their ownership of the building saying they had not “proven purchase of the property, nor the possession of it.”

Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin praised the move at a meeting of the Likud Knesset faction, and called on the prime minister and the defense minister to allow the families to remain in the building as an “appropriate nationalist response.”

The settlers have occupied the building before in the past, but have been evicted twice, in 2009 and 2015.

“Beit Hamachpela was purchased several years ago, but the government of Israel shamefully prevents the families from taking up residence in the property they purchased without any legal or moral justification,” representatives of the 15 families said.

“At this time when Jewish blood is being spilled, we call on the government to proudly raise the flag of settlement in the Land of Israel. In the face of the murder of Jews and national stammering, we demand that the government of Israel allow the families to take up residence at Beit Hamachpela forthwith.

In yet another related development, Israel has closed all diplomatic missions in Turkey as tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem continue to heat up over the ongoing standoff at the Temple Mount.

According to unconfirmed reports, the foreign ministry said that the decision to temporarily shutter the embassy in Ankara and the consulate in Istanbul was undertaken as a precaution, rather than in response to a concrete incident at either mission.

The move follows on the heels of Sunday’s stabbing of a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman, Jordan, which ended with the assailant and another person shot dead and the diplomatic staff on lockdown inside the embassy compound

It also comes a year after Israel and Turkey signed a reconciliation deal following a six-year diplomatic standoff. Relations between the countries tanked when nine Turkish nationals were killed as they attacked Israeli navy seals enforcing Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in May, 2010. Activists on the deck of the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships that participated in the flotilla, attacked the soldiers as they boarded the ship off the Gaza coast; Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador over the incident and recalled the Turkish ambassador from Tel Aviv.

Last year, Israeli officials had hoped that the reconciliation deal, which included an Israel payment of $20 million in compensation to the victims (technically, a contribution to an international fund) would temper Erdoğan’s venom towards the Jewish state and help repair ties.

However, there has been scant evidence of that happening. In May, Erdoğan asserted that “every day Jerusalem is under ‘occupation’” and said that Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians is “racist and discriminatory,” and last week warned that Israel should not “expect the Islamic world to passively accept the humiliation of Muslims caused by the new restrictions at the Noble Sanctuary,” using the Arabic term for the holy site, Haram al-Sharif.

According to a report on Ynet, two threatening demonstrations and mounting cases of vandalism against synagogues in Turkey—apparently carried out with the regime's tacit support against the backdrop of the Temple Mount crisis —are raising concerns among the country's Jewish community.

On the night between Thursday and Friday, dozens of demonstrators attacked the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, threw rocks at the synagogue, kicked its doors and tried to break in.

At the entrance to the synagogue, a local leader of the Great Union Party, Korsat Michan, spoke out and accused Israel of "harassing our Palestinian brothers and damaging their freedom of worship."

"Either the Zionists get a grip, or we will come back here again," he said, according to the Ynet report.

Some protesters shouted, "If you do not let us enter our holy place, we will not let you enter your holy place."

As protesters kicked the doors of the synagogue, two demonstrators climbed up the building and hung signs with pictures of the Dome of the Rock.

The Jewish community was stunned that the police patrol car—which regularly protected the synagogue as it is a target for terror attacks—had left the area shortly before the demonstration started.

On Saturday, the ancient 15th century Ahrida synagogue in Balat, Istanbul was also attacked. As in the first case, the police car also left before the demonstration began, and the demonstrators charged the synagogue, blocking entry and chanting anti-Israel slogans.

The fact that the police left the area in both cases may indicate that the demonstrations were held with the quiet consent of the authorities, which made it possible to "let out steam" against the Jews.

By: Andrew Friedman
(TPS & Ynet)