BLOG 275 October 19, 2015
With stabbings and shootings filling the streets of Jerusalem, is another war with the Palestinians underway? The volcano of Palestinian anxiety and anger is certainly rumbling and could erupt explosively. Blood shed in the streets of Jerusalem is a frightening omen for the future.
Why would people armed only with knives risk their lives against people with guns? What is going on?
Last year I was in East Jerusalem and talked with some of the Arab citizens who live there. They complain of prejudicial treatment, check-points in and out of their area, and although some are citizens of Israel, they are treated with prejudice. Equally bad, the PLO offices in Ramallah do nothing to help their citizens who claim East Jerusalem as their capital city.
The issue is personal and profound. The Palestinians Center for Public Opinion found that 61% of Palestinians living in Jerusalem support an armed struggle against Israel. Surprisingly, at the same time 52% would rather be Israelis citizens than part of a Palestinian state. Arabs in East Jerusalem live with this strange contradiction.
On the other hand, with knife attacks in their streets and rockets flying out of Gaza, the Israelis don’t believe anything they hear coming out of the West Bank. This week the mayor of Jerusalem called on citizens to visibly carry guns. Sounds like Jerusalem, the city of peace, is turning into Dodge City in 1880!
However, there is more to this story. In the midst of their despair and frustration, the Palestinians know their attacks have a potential to bring international pressure to bear on Israel. For example, the French have just submitted a proposal to the United Nations to bring international observers to the Temple Mount. Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected the idea as “absurd.” Still, it reflects a strategy beyond the knife attacks.
To complicate matters for the Palestinians, Israel has been in secret talks with Hamas to declare a 10-year truce. The truth is that the Gaza strip is a rumbled mess of broken cement one-year after the war and Hamas is in bad shape militarily. Hamas badly needs a breather. On the other hand, PLO leader Abbas doesn’t trust Hamas and believes they are trying to create a separate state in Gaza. Of course, the weak PLO government is no challenge for the Israeli military.
So who negotiates with who? The quagmire continues to rumble along going nowhere while the citizens suffer. In 2000, US president Bill Clinton had Israel and the PLO were on the verge of an agreement when Yasser Arafat simply walked out. Why? His true ultimate object was the entire destruction of Israel. He actually didn’t want a settlement.
Consequently, today no one really wants to talk with anyone else. The frustration boils over in knife attacks in the streets of Jerusalem. No compromises or settlements are even beyond the horizon.
Let us hope the situation doesn’t continue to deteriorate this week. Death doesn’t need another walk down the streets of Jerusalem once more.