Those Loudly Condemning the Israeli Security Minister’s Visit to the Temple Mount Are Playing into His Hands

After the Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir’s recent visit to the Temple Mount, the UN Security Council called an emergency session and several Arab states issued condemnations. France, the UK, and the U.S. conveyed more generic warnings to Jerusalem, and the event got much coverage in the Israeli and foreign press. Yet, although Ben-Gvir has a history of inflammatory statements, this visit adhered to all the normal rules restricting Jewish access to the site, and was in no way out of the ordinary. John Minster considers the outsized response it provoked:

The Temple Mount has long been one of the Middle East’s most contentious areas, and more than one open conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has begun because of events there. But that is a separate discussion. The simple fact is that the international community is assailing Israel for allowing Ben-Gvir to do something he’s supposed to be allowed to do, in the manner he’s allowed to do it, that he has done before many times, and that many other Jews do every year. If this is how the world reacts to a prominent Jew visiting Judaism’s holiest site under the strictest terms, regardless of who he may be, what prospect is there for it ultimately acknowledging the legitimate Jewish religious rights to the Temple Mount?

By going to the Temple Mount, [Ben-Gvir] wants the world to react like this. It puts him in the public eye and indicates, as he tried to show in his campaign, that he alone is willing to speak unspoken truths and confront underlying tensions with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs that other Israeli politicians would prefer to ignore.

By reacting the way they have to his visit, the United States, the UAE, and other countries are playing right into his hands. This entire [tumult] allows Ben-Gvir to set himself up as the great defender of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, a position that he greatly values. Even if they (with good reason) find him execrable, most Jewish Israelis are sympathetic to his insistence on Jewish rights there. Creating a phantom international crisis out of a visit that did not violate the status quo only makes Israelis more likely to support him and others like him who can use the . . . situation on the Temple Mount to their political advantage.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Itamar Ben Gvir, Temple Mount

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood