With PA leaders issuing no calls for calm, street will decide what happens next
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Analysis

With PA leaders issuing no calls for calm, street will decide what happens next

Mahmoud Abbas has squarely placed responsibility for Arab teen’s killing on Israeli ‘settlers,’ and is not intervening as riots continue

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Israeli border police stand guard as Palestinians worshippers pray near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on July 04, 2014 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli border police stand guard as Palestinians worshippers pray near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on July 04, 2014 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Palestinian leaders have not waited for the results of the autopsy of Muhammad Abu Khdeir to decide that it was “settlers” who kidnapped the East Jerusalem 16-year-old on Wednesday morning and burned him to death.

Clashes between police and Palestinians continued before, during and after the youth was laid to rest in his home Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat on Friday afternoon, with Palestinian news agencies reporting over 20 people injured from rubber bullets. Israel Radio reported 13 police officers were lightly injured in the clashes.

Tensions were high in Jerusalem as Abu Khdeir’s funeral took place in the heat of the day, following the first Friday prayers of Ramadan. Riots in the eastern neighborhoods of Shuafat, Beit Hanina and Ras Al-Amoud had been continuing on and off for the third consecutive day.

In the absence of calming messages from the Palestinian leadership, the street continues to control the level of flames.

“Settlers have burned and killed a young child. It is known who the settlers are,” said PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday. The Palestinian leader had come under significant criticism for the sympathy he had expressed for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers last month, sympathy Palestinians largely feel has not been reciprocated by the Israeli leadership.

“When Israel speaks of a kidnapping, it still doesn’t know who the kidnappers are, yet it places the responsibility on us … if Israel truly wants peace, it should punish those responsible and then end the settler phenomenon,” Abbas continued Thursday.

The PA president made no reference to the violent clashes which were taking place across Jerusalem, and did not call for cooler heads to prevail. He apparently felt he had lost the remaining political and popular clout that would have allowed him to do so.

The PLO, which Abbas chairs, was harsher in its criticism of Israel, which has not yet officially decided whether the killing was criminal or nationalistic in nature.

The Netanyahu government was to blame for the “racist crimes” which the “settler gangs” were perpetrating, said Palestinian National Council chairman Salim Za’anoun.

“These racist crimes stem from an [Israeli] mentality of black vengeance, disregard for murder and the Palestinian blood,” Za’anoun continued, calling for international intervention to “protect the Palestinian people from the occupation and its settlers.”

With no leadership speaking to or on behalf of Jerusalem’s Palestinians, neither in the PA nor in the Israeli Knesset, it will be the street which decides whether it now opts for escalation or calm. We’ll all see in the next few days which they choose.

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