Netanyahu and Abbas Should Calm Jerusalem Tensions Instead of Stoking Them

October 30, 2014

J Street condemns inflammatory comments by both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, which only serve to stoke the flames of the mounting violence in Jerusalem.

These two leaders and other responsible figures should act to calm the situation before it explodes instead of playing to their own domestic audiences and engaging in an irresponsible blame game.

Emotions on both sides are running high following Wednesday’s attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a right-wing activist for the primacy of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. We condemn such violence in the strongest terms and wish Rabbi Glick a full recovery.

The situation is particularly combustible because it touches on control of the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary. It is the site of the Biblical Jewish temples and the present day Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques.

Israeli security authorities have closed off the site until further notice, but that did not prevent Jewish extremists, including MK Moshe Feiglin, a member of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, from arriving there today demanding entry.

Even before Wednesday’s attack, tensions in Jerusalem were at their highest point in several years. Two Israelis, including a three-month-old infant, were killed when a Palestinian plowed his vehicle into a tram stop last week. A 14-year-old American-born Palestinian boy was shot in a clash with Israeli forces last Friday.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has stoked tension with a series of announcements of new construction in Jerusalem neighborhoods across the Green Line, and dozens of settlers have moved into the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, a well-known flashpoint because of its location in a valley just below the Temple Mount.

This is a time for Netanyahu and Abbas to step forward and demonstrate responsible leadership. Both men could do much to calm the situation if they could come together with a joint message denouncing violence, hatred and intolerance.

Instead, Abbas through a spokesperson, called closure of the Temple Mount a “declaration of war,” and Netanyahu accused Abbas of incitement and waging a campaign to keep Jews away from their holiest site.

Leaders are tested by how they behave in moments of crisis. We hope Netanyahu and Abbas change tack to meet this challenge. They still have time – but it may be running out.