A senior Israel minister on Saturday warned the Palestinians that their continued violence would lead them to a new “catastrophe,” using the same term, “nakba,” that Palestinians use to mark Israel’s founding and the dispossession that accompanied the creation of the Jewish state.
Speaking to Channel 2 TV, Minister for Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) was asked if he feared the escalation of violence over the Temple Mount would lead to a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
“We are not heading toward a third intifada, we are heading toward a third nakba,” Hanegbi said, using the Arabic work for “catastrophe.” “This is how a nakba starts,” he said.
Palestinians mark Israel’s founding in 1948 as a catastrophe. Some also see Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, where Israel defeated the Arab armies and captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula, as a second nakba.
Arguing that the Palestinians had the most to lose by encouraging a new round of violence, Hanegbi, a close colleague of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, castigated the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “a nothing” who was leading his people to disaster.
“I pray that they do not bring a third nakba on themselves,” he said. But, he warned, this is how a new Palestinian nakba starts — “when the ‘martyrs’ take the lead, and a man like Abu Mazen (Abbas), who is a nothing, a man who cannot rule, who understands that if he doesn’t join forces with the likes of (Hamas terror group leader Ismail) Haniyeh then he has no existence, he’s continuing with the blood libel and the lie and the incitement.” Abbas, added Hanegbi, “knows full well that those who killed Israeli policemen on the Temple Mount” in the July 14 attack that sparked the current escalation “would kill him and his men too. This is how it starts.”
Hanegbi predicted that if the Palestinian violence continued, “they’ll lose control, the whole situation will spiral out of control, and the end result will be their misery and a third nakba, which I emphatically do not wish for them.”
Asked if this would not also spell considerable suffering for Israel, Hanegbi acknowledged: “We’ll suffer too, but it’s not dependent on us. We’re not slaughtering ourselves at a birthday celebration at Halamish,” he said, referencing the Friday night terror attack at the Halamish settlement in which a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family at their Shabbat table. “We’re not shooting ourselves at Temple Mount.”
While Israel was trying to contain the violence, Hanegbi said, he could “already see the signs, as we have seen in the past, that there is no leadership (among the Palestinians), no strength of intellect and logic. The whole thing will fall apart,” he repeated.
Pressed again on whether Israel’s maintenance of metal detectors at the Temple Mount, despite Muslim objections, took into account the possibility that the current friction could escalate into a full-scale religious war, Hanegbi retorted: “That’s exactly what happened in 1948 and 1967 — the delusion that ‘against the Jews, we have Allah. He’ll protect us. and we’ll go and bash our heads into the wall, even if we become martyrs.'”
He said the Palestinian and Muslim objection to the metal detectors was a tactical matter. “If the other side doesn’t understand that there will be no stepping back (by Israel), that we’ll insist on the security of our police officers and our soldiers and we won’t concede and we won’t capitulate to terrorism and violence and incitement, then they will pay the full price. They’re already starting to pay it,” he said.
Hanegbi’s comments came following a week that has seen a sharp rise in tensions and bloodshed that started with the killing of two Israeli police officers by three Arabs who emerged from the Temple Mount to shoot them dead on July 14.
Israel posted metal detectors around the holy site that is also the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, angering the Muslim world. On Friday three Palestinians were killed in protests.
Late Friday, a 19-year-old Palestinian terrorist infiltrated into the West Bank settlement of Halamish and stabbed to death three people as they sat at their Shabbat dinner table celebrating the birth of a grandson.
Abbas on Friday announced he was freezing all contacts with Israel “until Israel commits to canceling all the measures against our Palestinian people in general and Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.”
Abbas specifically castigated the deployment of the metal detectors at the Temple Mount compound. Abbas called the measures “falsely presented as a security measure to take control over Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Under the status quo arrangement established after Israel captured the Temple Mount in 1967, the site is managed by the Waqf, an Islamic foundation under the auspices of Jordan, while Israel controls security.
Israel closed the site after the attack, the first time in decades it was closed on a Friday, reopening it to Muslims on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.
“Taking arms on to the Temple Mount is not part of the status quo, killing police officers on the Temple Mount is not part of the status quo and we will not let it be,” Hanegbi said.