The Day In Israel: Tuesday Mar 16th, 2010

Police are bracing themselves for violence after Hamas announced a “day of rage” in response to Israel’s latest outrageous outrage – the dedication of the restored Hurva synagogue, which was destroyed by the Arab Legion in the War of Independence.

Large forces will continue to be deployed throughout the city, with 3,000 police and border police officers stationed in East Jerusalem and neighboring villages.

Limitations on access to Muslim prayers on Temple Mount will continue for the fifth day. Members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee are set to hold a procession in the east of the city on Wednesday.

Jerusalem on Monday was tense but quiet. Around noon, Palestinians began throwing stones near the Mount of Olives cemetery, but no injuries were reported.

At 6 P.M., scores of youths hurled stones at Border Police troops from the Palestinian side of the Qalandiya crossing, north of Jerusalem. The youths were dispersed, and the crossing closed.

Some stone throwing was also reported in the Silwan neighborhood. A general strike called in the Old City for noon largely failed to materialize, as most businesses remained open as usual.

Police on Monday attributed the relative quiet to the limitations placed on entry to Temple Mount and to the extensive police work. Palestinian commentators said Monday the general Palestinian public seems to disapprove of the leadership’s attempts to fan the flames.

Actually, I shouldn’t blame it solely on Hamas. Our “peace partners” of Fatah are also inflaming the situation, not to mention the Egyptians and Jordanians (also “peace partners”).

The quiet does not appear to have been affected by attempts of senior Hamas and Fatah officials to ratchet up the violence. On Sunday, Fatah’s Mahmoud Dahlan and Hatem Abdelkader called on residents of East Jerusalem and Israeli Arabs to arrive and defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee chairman Yasser Abed Rabo called on Israel to refrain from dedicating the Hurva synagogue. Hamas, too, warned of bloodshed if the synagogue is dedicated, and similar warnings have been made by Egyptian and Jordanian diplomats.

Meanwhile, Israel has been trying to defuse the situation.

At Monday’s dedication ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his prerecorded video message to reach out for reconciliation with the Muslim world.

“I know many are moved by this moment, and rightly so. But we’re not the only ones moved by our faith. We have enabled adherents of other religions to restore their places of worship as well. We proudly uphold our heritage, we have returned to our cities, and we also give the same freedom of worship to other religions,” Netanyahu said. “The people of Israel maintain their heritage and through that maintain the heritage of others.”

Mayor Nir Barkat, who spoke at the ceremony, also attempted to ease Palestinian anxiety, saying that “I want to send a message of peace to all religions. I believe that precisely because we have twice experienced the pain of seeing our holy place destroyed, we, the sovereigns, know and will know to preserve and respect the places of worship of other faiths. We will remember to be sensitive to their fears and needs.”

We may be in physical control of Jerusalem, but the Arabs are still trying to prevent freedom of religion for the Jews. Unfortunately, they have much of the world on their side.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)?

11:38PM: Introducing the PA television show Chicks.

No, it’s not what you think.

A new children’s show on official Palestinian Authority television is using a map of “Palestine” that teaches kids that Israel doesn’t exist.

The program, Chicks, includes a regular segment that introduces viewers to a particular area of “Palestine.” The map that PA TV has chosen for this educational program includes all of Israel, yet is labeled “Palestine.” A second heading in English and Arabic next to the map reads, “Explore Your Country.”
[PA TV (Fatah), March 14, 2010]

Maps showing all of Israel as “Palestine” are an important element of the PA’s campaign that reinforces the message to Palestinians not to recognize Israel.

11:00PM: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said Israel must prove its commitment to peace.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that Israel must prove it is committed to the Mideast peace process with actions, but brushed aside suggestions that US-Israeli relations were in crisis and reaffirmed America’s steadfast commitment to the security of the Jewish state.

Clinton said US and Israeli officials were in intense talks about how to repair the damage caused by last week’s Israeli announcement of new Jewish housing in east Jerusalem while US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country. She said the goal was to relaunch stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“We are engaged in very active consultations with the Israelis over steps that we think would demonstrate the requisite commitment to the process,” she told reporters at a joint State Department news conference with visiting Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin.

Funny, but I don’t seem to recall her – or any other White House official for that matter – stating something similar regarding the palestinians, despite the regular terror attacks and incitement against Jews.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister has responded.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Tuesday that Israel had proven its commitment to peace before both in words and actions, after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Jerusalem to do more to prove it was serious about the Middle East process.

“The State of Israel appreciates and respects the warm words said by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the deep bond between the U.S. and Israel, and on the U.S.’ commitment to Israel’s security,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

“With regard to commitments to peace, the government of Israel has proven over the last year that it is commitment to peace, both in words and actions,” said the statement.”

The statement cited as examples Netanyahu’s inaugural foreign policy speech made at Bar Ilan University, the removal of hundreds of roadblocks across the West Bank, and its decision to freeze temporarily construction in West Bank settlements. The latter, said the statement, was even called by Clinton an “unprecedented” move.

Netanyahu’s office added in its statement that the Palestinians were continuing to thwart the political process by demanding preconditions before the resumption of peace talks. “They are orchestrating a de-legitimization campaign against Israel in international institutions.”

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again calls on the Palestinians to enter the tent of peace without preconditions, because that is the only way to reach a settlement that will ensure peace, security and prosperity for both nations,” said the statement.

4:40PM: Scene from The Rage: That’s Some Kids Protest edition.

An armed Palestinian militant holds a national flag in front of a huge model of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock mosque during a protest by Palestinian school children in the Ain al-Helweh refugee camp near the southern Lebanese port of Sidon on March 16, 2010, againt recent Israeli measures in Arab east Jerusalem. Israel's announcement last week of plans to build 1,600 new Jewish settler homes in the Arab sector of Jerusalem and the reopening of the twice-destroyed Hurva synagogue in its walled Old City on March 15 have sparked outrage among Palestinians, many of whom view Israeli projects near the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound -- Islam's third holiest site -- as an assault on its tense status quo or a prelude to the building of a third Jewish temple there. AFP/Getty

4:15PM: Scene from The Rage: Not Impressed edition

AFP/Getty Images

3:25PM: Statement from another Hamashole:

“This policy is nothing short of ethnic cleansing, and it constitutes a strong motive for the launch of a third intifada, even more than Sharon’s visit to the al-Aqsa mosque.”

Just kidding. This was said by an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset – MK Haneen Zoubi (Balad) – who should know better than most how there is no such ethnic cleansing.

3:20PM: Scene from The Rage: Where’s Waldo edition.

AFP/Getty Images

3:12PM: Hamashole Dr. Ahmed Bahar has called on the palestinians to strike Israel with terrorist attacks in response to the “desecration of al-Aqsa.”

1:15PM: It’s rage time.

The day dubbed “the day of rage” by Hamas and extremist Islamic groups opened with riots – both in the holy city and on the way to it.  Hundreds of Arabs burned tires and hurled stones at Border Guard officers at several locations throughout the city Tuesday morning. At least three officers and 11 rioters were lightly injured, and eight were detained. Meanwhile, in the North, a bus full of Muslim passengers on their way to al-Aqsa Mosque was stopped and turned back. Police said the bus was inspected following tip-offs of possible plans to riot in Jerusalem.

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Dozens of masked rioters hurled stones at Border Guard officers near the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, and set fire to tires. The force dispersed the rioters using stun grenades. Two policemen were lightly injured and seven Palestinians were arrested.

In another incident, at the northern entrance to the Isawiya neighborhood in Jerusalem, masked protesters also burned tires and hurled stones at Border Guard officers. The rioters were calmed and dispersed by the village’s elders. Security forces also dispersed masked rioters hurling stones near the Temple Mount’s Majlis Gate.

In Abu Dis, some 50 Palestinians hurled stones at security forces. Police and Border Guard officers responded with teargas and stun grenades. One of the rioters was detained and taken in for questioning. Riots were also noted at the Qalandiya checkpoint.

Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinian youths threw stones in Maale Mota Gur in the Old City and near the wholesale market. Similar riots ensued in Wadi Joz and Silwan. In total, thousands of police officer were deployed throughout the city.

Buses to capital inspected

Meanwhile, at the Achihod junction in the western Galilee, police stopped a bus containing Arab Muslims who were making their way from Majdal Krum in the north, to Jerusalem. The Bus driver was forced to turn back. During an inspection of the bus, a 38-year-old passenger allegedly assaulted a Traffic Police officer and was detained.

9:20AM: US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has postponed his visit to the region, and may even cancel it entirely, as the US-Israel crisis deepens.

Although not all see it as a huge crisis.

However, American sources told Times magazine that core security issues between the two countries were not at risk, and that the current crisis is more like a lovers quarrel than a couple on the verge of divorce.

Except unlike many lovers quarrels, this one is about preventing erections instead of an inability to sustain them.

6:08AM: Speaking of palestinian threats of violence..

PLO executive committee member Ahmed Qureia warned Monday that if Israel  continues to build Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem and raze Arab homes “another intifada will break out.”

Speaking to reporters in Abu Dis, Qureia, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, said, “If matters remain at this level, regardless of whether we take the decision or not, it is coming. If Israel continues these practices, it is coming,” he said.

I think he just admitted 1) The PA retains the right to decide on the violent approach to achieve their goals and 2) it lacks control. Either way, it makes them eminently unqualified to be peace partners of any kind.

Meanwhile, the Ma’an news report contains this interesting section:

“Jerusalem is exposed to an unprecedented danger which targets its land, people, holy sites, heritage and history,” Qrei’a said, adding that determining the fate of the city is paramount, without which a comprehensive solution cannot be attained.

Revealing a 1882 map of Jerusalem showing intended Israeli settlements, the PLO official said it proved the considerable risk faced by Palestinians in the city.

And proves there was a Jewish presence in Jerusalem at least as far back as 1882.

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media