1. Converge and clash: The confluence of the Islamic holy day of Eid al Adha and the Jewish mourning day of Tisha B’Av touched off pitched battles between Muslims and police.
- While non-Muslims are generally barred from the flashpoint holy site on Muslim holidays, the police and government were under pressure to allow Jewish pilgrims looking to mark the anniversary of the destruction of the temples that once stood there.
- Police initially said they would not allow the Jews — massed near a Temple Mount entrance reserved for non-Muslims — to enter, then changed their minds and allowed a small group to ascend the esplanade under heavy protection. Muslim worshipers/chair throwers were having none of it though, and riots quickly broke out.
- According to the Red Crescent, 37 protesters were injured, including one with a smashed jaw.
- Israel’s Walla News site reports 4 police injured along with one Jewish pilgrim who was hit in the face with a bottle.
- As of this writing, Israeli and Palestinian media are filled with breathless, chaotic accounts of fighting and arrests on the Mount, and it’s not exactly clear what is happening and who will be allowed in or barred, beyond police saying they are trying to restore order.
2. Blood and soul: Al-Jazeera reports that “Facing off with police in the packed compound outside Islam’s third-holiest site, Palestinians chanted: ‘With our soul and blood we will redeem you, Aqsa.’”
- According to the Ynet news site, leading the chants were the head of the Waqf, which administers the site, and the mufti, later joined by Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi.
- Tibi tells Ynet that the police response was “brutal” and there was no need to use dispersal methods against rioters. “Al-Aqsa is a place of worship for Muslims and any attempt to allow others in to pray on this day or any other day is a provocation,” he says, echoing hardline views.
3. A literal cop out: He’s not the only hardliner with something to say. After it seemed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the site closed, politicians from the United Right and other hawks went on the offensive, calling the decision a “disgrace” and “capitulation to terror.”
- Netanyahu denies giving the order to close the mount. On Twitter his social media guru Jonathan Urich writes, “Any Jew who wants to go up to the Temple Mount is going up.”
- His office also issues an official denial saying that “at no stage did Prime Minister Netanyahu give the instruction to close entry to the Temple Mount.”
- As my colleague Judah Ari Gross notes, though, the whole argument is moot.
This is an incredibly stupid argument about who's responsible for closing the Temple Mount to Jews. The PM wouldn't give an explicit, specific order to shut it down. There's no need. He'd give police power to do what they thought would curb violence, knowing this meant a closure.
— Judah Ari Gross (@JudahAriGross) August 11, 2019
- Speaking to Army Radio, former Jerusalem police chief Niso Shaham confirms that the politicians can only request certain things, but the decision falls to the cops.
- Jerusalem police chief Doron Yedid is quoted in several Hebrew language outfits saying the decision to open the site to Jews was his, albeit with the backing of the government. “At 7:30, there were over 60,000 Muslims, and that allowed from a perspective of balance to allow some of the Jews to ascend and the rest to observe. When we understood it was all snowballing into a small group preventing any Jews from entering, we used force, dispersed them and allowed the Jews to enter.”
- Shaham also says he would have done things differently. “It was the wrong call, there was no need to bring up Jewish visitors during Eid al-Adha,” he says.
4. Hot takes, get your hot takes: What does the brouhaha mean? It’s likely too early to tell, but some have some hot-off-the-press takes.
- Left-wing activist Daniel Seidemann writes on Twitter that Israel’s move essentially confirms Muslims fears of the Temple Mount becoming a shared site.
No more. The message now sent by Israel is that the Mount is now a “shared” Jewish-Muslim site, like the Ibrahimiya Mosque/the Tomb of the Patriarchs, one of the most volatile and toxic sacred sites on the planet. This is a clear deviation from the established status quo.
— Daniel Seidemann (@DanielSeidemann) August 11, 2019
- On the other side, Channel 11 correspondent Zeev Kam writes that Israel is actually broadcasting weakness.
- “When Israel shows weakness, Arab violence is not far behind. The desire to get a little quiet at any price is proven again and again to be a recipe for more violence. Enough already.”
- “This is exile inside the State of Israel,” Kiryat Arba resident Rina Ariel writes in the Israel National News website.
- “Respect to the police dealing with a complicated situation on the Temple Mount when they know no matter what they do the politicians will second-guess them,” quips Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson.
5. The first rule of fight Hamas club is you don’t talk about fight Hamas club: The same can be said for Gaza, where on Sunday for the second time in as many days, and the third time this month, a firefight was set off as a gunman tried to infiltrate Israel.
- The Saturday incident, in which four Gazans were killed while trying to sneak across the frontier lugging a Doomguy-esque arsenal, appears to have been the most serious of the three, and several people take note of the fact that had they carried out their plan, Israel could be fighting a war now.
- Asked about the fact that Israel is essentially being kept out of a wider conflagration by luck and the eagle eyes of the female soldiers manning the observation posts along the border, Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant tells Channel 12 that Israel will launch a wide offensive eventually, but will decide on the timing.
- He refuses to discuss what that timing may be.
- Israel Hayom’s Yoav Limor writes that politicians putting pressure on the government to act after an attack are only playing into Hamas’s hands.
- “The military has to remain vigilant but so do our politicians, who have to exercise responsibility and maturity in their statements – something of a tall order during an election campaign – if we are to avoid unnecessarily fanning the flames,” he writes.
6. Hamasdunit: In all three cases, Hamas has sought to distance itself from the attackers, as well as with a deadly attack in the West Bank, and while officially Israel has largely played along, most are not buying it.
- “If the four troublemakers managed a significant achievement, like kidnapping a soldier, Hamas would embrace them fully, as it did with the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. But they were caught and killed? Not so great,” writes Shimrit Meir in Yedioth.
- She also connects the incidents to other similar incidents where Hamas played dumb, like rockets fired at homes “by mistake.”
- Not helping matters for Hamas are reports in Palestinian media that “some or all of the four were former Hamas terrorists. Conflicting reports late Saturday said they had quit the Gaza-ruling terror group or had been ejected from it.”
- IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus noted the four were in uniforms but refused to elaborate, which may be code for “We want to signal it’s Hamas but don’t want domestic pressure to hit Hamas back and start a war now.” Or perhaps they were in girl scout uniforms.
- In Israel Hayom, Eyal Zisser notes that the same calculus of not assigning blame extends to the killing of Dvir Sorek in the West Bank last week.
- “The suspected terrorists are members of Hamas or are affiliated with it, but the organization’s leaders in Gaza remember very well how the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers five years ago led the IDF to launch Operation Protective Edge, and therefore are wary of direct involvement in terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria capable of triggering a clash with Israel,” he writes.
7. Bad news no matter what: In Haaretz, Amos Harel leaves open the possibility that the four fighters really were rogue and Hamas really is losing control.
- “The latest incident is bad news for Hamas since it indicated some lack of control in Gaza. This is why strange excuses and conflicting versions were heard. And yet, the question remains: Did Hamas leaders, headed by Yahya Sinwar, not encourage the infiltration by remote control or by a wink and nod, in order to let off some steam among Hamas activists,” he writes. “At least according to Israeli intelligence, Hamas is still not interested in wide scale escalation but is rather in interested in agreements with Israel to advance the reconstruction of Gaza’s infrastructure.”
- But ToI’s Avi Issacharoff surmises that a Hamas lack of control could just as easily snowball into war.
- “The terror group wants the best of both worlds: to maintain its resistance against Israel while stopping short of complicating itself by sparking another war,” he says. “However, this is a very fine line to walk, and one wrong move could ultimately be fatal for Hamas and, most unfortunately, for Gazans and Israelis.”