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Israeli Sovereignty in Jerusalem Is Necessary for Regional Stability—and Arab Rulers Know It

Nov. 16 2017

Revisiting this summer’s Temple Mount crisis—when a Palestinian terrorist attack prompted new Israeli security measures, which in turn prompted more Palestinian violence—Eran Lerman situates it in the context of the geopolitical and ideological rivalries that divide the Middle East as a whole. The violence was largely incited by Hamas and its Israeli Arab equivalent, the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. Both organizations are part of a larger camp consisting of Qatar, Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other side are the “moderate” Sunni states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. The latter group, which has grown increasingly friendly to Israel, wants to maintain the current situation on the Mount, with Israel and Jordan sharing control over the holy places lest these be seized by the Brotherhood. Lerman explains:

Relinquishing Israel’s sovereignty over the Holy Basin and the Temple Mount would result in Palestinian takeover of all the holy sites. Yasir Arafat, after all, liked to compare himself to Caliph Omar (the [7th-century] Muslim conqueror of Jerusalem), who signed a treaty with the Christians in the city without addressing any Jewish rights. . . . Under these circumstances, if Israel ever relinquished control, Jordan would lose its status and legitimacy. Under pressure from the Muslim Brotherhood camp (which, without the help of Israel, the Palestinian Authority would not be able to withstand), the Temple Mount would become a pivotal historic symbol of the victory of radical Islam.

This is a result that most of the Arab world today would view as disastrous. Israel’s sovereignty over a unified Jerusalem, especially in the Holy Basin, is therefore the vital cornerstone for continued viability of the [moderate Sunni] camp and for the prospect of regional stability. This will remain true as along as Israel’s leadership continues to act cautiously, judiciously, and with an informed assessment of internal Arab dynamics. . . .

[The events this summer] indicate that the key elements in the regional political arena are not enthusiastic about investing extraordinary efforts in order to achieve a permanent final-status agreement that would lead to a solution to [the Israel-Palestinian conflict]. But they do have a clear interest . . . in sagacious management by Israel of the situation in the territories and in Jerusalem, without letting intermittent skirmishes deteriorate into high-visibility conflict. [Such a deterioration] would only play into the hands of hostile elements from the radical camps.

Viewed in this light, Israel’s decision to remove the security cameras it installed on the Temple Mount should be seen not as a shameful capitulation to Palestinian demands—as some on the Israeli right have argued—but as a willing compromise in order to maintain good relations with Jordan and its allies, which need to deliver symbolic concessions to their populations.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Israel & Zionism, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian terror, Temple Mount

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy