Midday Muslim prayers services on Friday ended peacefully at the Temple Mount and the surrounding area, following 13 consecutive days of tensions in the Old City of Jerusalem and across the West Bank. Firas Dibs, an official from the Waqf, the Jordanian religious body that administers the holy site, said tens of thousands attended Friday prayers on the Temple Mount. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed prayers ended without incident. Police were out in force in anticipation of mass demonstrations.
The Next War in Gaza Is Brewing. Here’s How to Stop It., The New York Times
Nathan Thrall and Robert Blecher write, “To stabilize Gaza, Egypt has begun to allow in some fuel. That is a positive first step. But much more needs to be done, above all changing the system in which the people of Gaza are taxed by a government that not only does not represent them but is actively seeking to do them harm. This can be achieved in three ways. First, Israel — which refuses to engage with any Hamas-led government — could transfer tax revenues on Gaza-bound goods to the people of Gaza, either through an internationally supervised trust or by using the tax revenues to pay for increased electricity. Second, Egypt could export more goods to Gaza, thereby reducing the amount taxed by Israel and increasing the amount taxed directly by Gaza’s government. Third, Hamas could allow the formation of a new administrative body in Gaza, led by a non-Hamas figure, in which case Israel and the international community could engage with it directly to improve life in Gaza and establish a long-term cease-fire. The objection to any of these options in Ramallah — beyond the blow to the Palestinian Authority’s budget — is that they would deepen the separation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and sound the death knell for the Palestinian national movement. (The irony of the Palestinian Authority warning against division as it chokes Gaza seems to be lost in Ramallah.) Some in Gaza have a similar concern: that changes to its status could leave the territory even more vulnerable if they required it to rely on a single lifeline to the outside world through Egypt, which might act even more harshly and with greater impunity in the event of, for instance, another attack near Gaza’s border in Sinai. But fear of potential consequences should not lead to the perpetuation of harm and the disregard of imminent threat.”
The Anger in Jordan’s Streets, Atlantic
Alice Su reports, “Jordanians’ proximity to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is geographical, familial, and visceral. More than 60 percent of Jordanians are of Palestinian descent, displaced by Israeli forces in 1948 or 1967. Some 2 million are still registered as refugees, with almost 370,000 living in “camps” that have grown over the years into overcrowded, underserviced neighborhoods. Many have close family members who are living across the border in the West Bank or in Gaza, and whose difficulties spread into their relatives’ consciousness….This time around, Jordanian anger is directed not only at Israel but also at Jordan’s government. While Israel announced almost immediately that Jawawdeh had attacked the guard before being shot, Jordanian police kept silent a full extra day, unable to investigate the complete story because Israel claimed that the shooter had diplomatic immunity and couldn’t be interrogated. Despite their initial insistence on interrogating the guard, Jordanian authorities let the shooter go on Monday night, allowing a complete evacuation of the embassy staff after a compromise: The guard told his story only to Israeli diplomats, with Jordanian police present. By 11 p.m. on Monday, the shooter was home in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave him a hug. Jordanians are outraged. On Tuesday morning, lawmakers staged a walkout while the Minister of the Interior was presenting details of the investigation in Parliament. Jordanian media has abounded with outcries at the Jordanian government’s kowtowing to Israeli wishes.”
A military court on Sunday rejected the appeal of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who killed an incapacitated Palestinian assailant last year in Hebron. The appellate court also rejected the prosecution’s appeal for a harsher sentence, maintaining the original sentence of 18 months in prison. Azaria was convicted of manslaughter for killing the assailant, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif.
President Trump will meet with Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in Washington to discuss the Temple Mount crisis. The meeting is scheduled for late Monday morning, Haaretz reported. ‘As part of a long-planned trip, Ambassador David Friedman is in D.C. this week. In addition to a variety of meetings, he will be meeting with the president, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt tomorrow to discuss the events that transpired in the region over the past two weeks where tensions have recently lowered,’ an unnamed White House official told Haaretz.”
Israeli soldiers raided the offices of PalMedia, a Palestinian media production company, in the West Bank city of Ramallah early Saturday morning. The forces seized equipment and documents from at least one of the offices, on suspicion of “incitement to terrorism,” according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Israeli Prime Minister publicly defended his decision to remove metal detectors and other security measures from the Temple Mount, calling it a difficult choice, but one made with a broad view. Netanyahu also announced at the beginning of Sunday’s regular Cabinet meeting that he has authorized the reinforcement of security forces on the Temple Mount and throughout the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as instructed Israel Police and the Cabinet to approve a $28 million budget for the development and acquisition of technology in order to create new security solutions for the site.
The President of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, urged caution on Monday over reports alleging that Israeli forces had caused major damages inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound over recent days. Speaking to Ma’an on Monday morning, Sabri emphasized that the technical committee of the Islamic endowment (Waqf) tasked with examining the premises after the compound was occupied by Israeli forces was the only authority entitled to make statements about any damages or losses incurred since, urging media outlets to exercise caution when publishing new on Al-Aqsa.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Saturday praised his country’s handling of the Temple Mount crisis in Jerusalem in recent weeks and said Jordan would continue to fulfill its “historic role” of protecting “Islamic and Christian holy sites” in the city and preventing their “Judaization” while ensuring the maintenance of the status quo at the sensitive compound. Speaking to a group of local journalists, the Jordanian monarch said Amman worked continuously to “contain the ramifications” of Israel’s imposed security measures at entrances to the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock sanctuary, and to pressure Israel to roll back the installations and “through our common stand with our Palestinian brethren.”
The Palestinian Authority has decided to uphold a freeze on security coordination with Israel that was imposed during protests against now-removed Israeli security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, a high-ranking Fatah official told Ma’an. However, a report published Saturday in The Times of Israel cited multiple Palestinian sources as saying that PA detention campaigns targeting alleged “Hamas operatives” were ongoing.
Amos Harel writes, “The Israeli defense establishment is following the health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with concern. Abbas was hospitalized in Ramallah for a few hours on Friday morning for some tests. PA officials said he was suffering from fatigue brought on by the events of the last two weeks and the tensions with Israel over the Temple Mount crisis. Israeli and Palestinian sources believe that Abbas’ health has deteriorated in recent months and that any further worsening could hasten the changing of the guard at the Palestinian Authority. Abbas’ inner circle is interested in minimizing the severity of his medical problems. Managing the crisis with Israel has necessitated the president to continuously monitor events as they unfold, hold frequent meetings with his advisers and with Fatah and PA leaders, and stay in touch with Arab leaders and Western diplomats. Abbas is also worried about the strengthening relationship between Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan under the auspices of the Egyptians, which could lead to coordinated political moves directed against him.”
Shlomi Eldar writes, “Netanyahu’s demand that the Al Jazeera bureau in Israel is shut down is not unusual; he is joining a long list of heads of Sunni Arab states throughout the Middle East who feel that Al Jazeera’s broadcasts pose a threat to their regimes. But is it the right step, as far as Netanyahu is concerned? Knesset member Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp), a former IDF spokesman and author of the book ‘Media War: Reaching for Hearts and Minds,’ told Al-Monitor that the prime minister’s decision was intended to strengthen his standing among the right. Brig. Gen. (Res.) Hanan Gefen, who once headed the IDF’s elite intelligence unit 8200, also believes that it would be a mistake to carry out Netanyahu’s threats. In an opinion piece that appeared on the Israel Defense website, he wrote, ‘After spending a long time tracking the network’s broadcasts, I know that Al Jazeera’s audience in the Arab states benefits from a balanced picture of what happens in the State of Israel, complete with responses from Israeli spokesmen, accurate quoting of the Israeli media and spokesmen, and the use of nonaggressive language insofar as possible.’”
Zvi Bar’el observes, “Mass protests – even those arising from religious sentiment – can swiftly develop into protests against internal policies, lack of freedom of expression, economic difficulties and lack of democracy. The innovation in the current affair is that Israel wasn’t the only one fearing a Palestinian intifada. Many Arab leaders shared the alarm, because – as proven during the Arab Spring earlier this decade – uprisings are a dangerous, contagious disease and a Palestinian intifada is no longer merely a local reflection of a national struggle against the Israeli occupation. It could mobilize such massive solidarity that would put the Arab regimes in a violent confrontation with their people.”
Judy Maltz reports on Jennifer Atala, who is “helping Israeli and Palestinian high-techies find one another and form alliances.”
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