The head of a Palestinian paramilitary organization in Jerusalem asserted Thursday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not in control of the recent surge in violence in Israel and the West Bank, and that the situation is likely to get worse.
Adnan Ghaith, the leader of the Jerusalem Tanzim, spoke to members of the Israeli press from his office in the village of al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, and said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bears sole responsibility for a spate of near-daily Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
“Neither [Abbas] nor anyone else can control this situation as long as Benjamin Netanyahu continues to give his soldiers permission to kill people and act in the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said, referring to accusations that Israel is seeking to change the arrangements on Jerusalem’s volatile Temple Mount, which houses the mosque. The recent wave of violence was sparked by such allegations, which the Israeli government has rejected as false.
“No one can control what is happening, and the situation is going to get worse,” he added, according to a report in the Hebrew-language news site Ynet.
“Netanyahu is the only person in the whole world who is responsible for this situation,” said Ghaith, who is seen as a key Palestinian figure in the capital. “No one else is responsible for what is happening, not even the Palestinian Authority, which isn’t able to control the situation so long as Netanyahu and his government continue in their ways.”
Ghaith claimed that media images of violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount were fueling rage among the Palestinian youth.
“When children see this situation, how do you expect them to behave?” he asked. “That they will give a soldier a flower and say, ‘Thank you?’ So what are they doing? They are resisting. Each person resists in his own way.”
Many recent stabbing attacks in the capital have been carried out by Palestinian teenagers, including one attack by cousins who were only 13 and 15 years old.
When asked if the Tanzim would actively encourage attacks on Israelis, Ghaith declined to respond.
Much of the recent flareup of violence has centered around Palestinian claims that Israel is seeking to change the decades-old status quo on the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-holiest.
Under rules set by Israel, which captured the compound during the 1967 Six Day War, Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray at the site. Israel has repeatedly denied that it is intending to make changes to the current rules, and describes the accusations as incitement to violence.
Ghaith argued that the international community sees the PA as a tool put in place for Israel’s benefit — an arrangement he said was unacceptable.
“What do all the governments want from the Palestinian Authority in the last few years? That it will remain in control in the territories that it has, that the situation will remain as it is and that [Abbas] continue to guard Israel’s borders? That will never happen. [Abbas] is a person who believes in the path of peace but he doesn’t believe and will not believe in being the soldier that guards Israel’s borders. Anyone who thinks that is making a big mistake,” he said.
Tanzim was founded by Abbas’s Fatah party and is loyal to the PA leader. It gained notoriety as a fighting force and a terror organization during the Second Intifada, a violent Palestinian uprising during 2000-2005 during which thousands of Israelis and Palestinians were killed.
Tanzim leaders are thought to be key organizers of many of the protests taking place in the West Bank in recent days, protests that have drawn thousands and swelled the ranks of Palestinians clashing with IDF soldiers.
Israeli officials have charged that Tanzim leaders, including the organization’s local leaders, encouraged the growing protests, in part to prevent rival group Hamas from gaining control of developments in the Palestinian street.
Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.