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A Third Infatada?

from the November 17, 2014 eNews issue

Avi Lipkin recently wrote on his Facebook page:

The string of vehicular terrorist attacks proves that this is the beginning of a third Infatada, not the actions of lone attackers. Mahmoud Abbas stands at the head of a campaign of incitement, and Hamas is the operational branch. Once again, we see that there is no real difference between Hamas and between Abbas, merely a splitting of responsibility: Hamas is responsible for diplomatic terrorism. This is the policy of the joint Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government which the world was quick to embrace as partners for peace.

Two weeks ago, Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, made this ominous declaration via Twitter: “The 3rd Intifada is already here—if there is anybody that still doesn’t get it,” he wrote, referring to the possibility of another Palestinian uprising erupting, as in the late 1980s and early 2000s.

Two weeks ago, things got even worse. Yehuda Glick, a rabbi and advocate for permitting Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, was shot in an apparent assassination attempt. On Thursday, Glick’s purported assailant was reportedly killed by Israeli police. Riots ensued. Shortly afterward, Israeli officials took the extraordinary step of closing the Temple Mount to all worshipers, an act that a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called a “declaration of war.”

More evidence of a third intifada appeared on November 5 after a police officer was killed and 14 people were injured in a car attack that was mentioned in Avi’s Facebook posting, the second such incident in two weeks coming amid continued rioting in Jerusalem’s holiest places.

A Palestinian member of the militant group Hamas rammed a truck into a crowded light rail station, backed out and then continued to drive, hitting several cars and injuring passengers and pedestrians on the street.

He got out of the car and attacked a group of civilians and police officers on the side of the road with a metal bar before he was shot and killed.

A Hamas statement claimed responsibility and praised the “glorious operation” of the attacker, named as Ibrahim al-Akri, 38, from the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem.

He had “retaliated for the blood of his people and the sacredness of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem,” a statement said.

The head of the ambulance rescue service, Eli Bir, also said he also ploughed into people waiting at a bus stop. Apart from the attacker, the one person killed was a police officer from the Druze minority.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, blamed the incident on “incitement” by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, and his Hamas “partners” — a reference to their current attempts to implement a power-sharing deal.

“The attack was the direct consequence of Abu Mazen’s [Abbas’s] incitement and that of his Hamas partners,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

Earlier, heavy rioting near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam which occupies what Jews call the Temple Mount, saw a Palestinian man seriously injured by a rubber bullet and tear gas fired into the mosque by Israeli border police.

External factors may complicate matters as well. On October 30, the Swedish government voted to recognize a Palestinian state, a step that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called “a miserable decision that strengthens the extremist elements and Palestinian rejectionism.” He added, less-than-diplomatically, that the Middle East is “more complicated than self-assembly furniture at IKEA.”

Tensions have been high in the capital since a similar incident two weeks ago when Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, also from east Jerusalem, ploughed his car into commuters killing a three-month-old baby and a 20-year-old woman.

There have been sporadic riots since July, when a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was murdered by a Jewish gang in Shuafat, in retaliation for the killing of three Jewish teenagers abducted on their way back home to a West Bank settlement.

Last month, the trouble moved to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which was closed to all visitors on Thursday for the first time in 14 years.

It was closed a second time after the renewed rioting.

Also, Rabbi Yehuda Glick was shot at close range outside a conference where he had spoken about allowing an increased Jewish presence on the grounds of the mosque.

The key suspect, another Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem, Muataz Hijazi, 33, was shot and killed the next day by Israeli police.

Mr. Abbas sparked Mr. Netanyahu’s rage by sending Hijazi’s family a letter of condolence.

In late October, Israel’s Interior Ministry pressed ahead regardless with its east Jerusalem settlements program, signing off on another 500 new homes near Shuafat.

Jordan recalled its ambassador for consultations in protest at the violence and Israeli actions to close the mosque.

Israeli police said al-Akri had been recently released from prison after he served time for “security offences”. His brother was said to be among the more than 1,000 Palestinians released in the 2011 prisoner exchange deal for the captured young Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Menachem Klein, professor of political science at Bar Ilan University, said Jerusalem was facing a renewed intifada, or uprising, after previous uprisings in the 1980s and again from 2000–2005.

“Those who say this is not an intifada have in mind intifada one and two as models, but I refuse to assume that the third intifada should exactly follow the first and the second. It can be different — it’s a popular rejection of the Israeli authority,” he said. “It’s a local intifada, yes, and Israel is trying to contain it.

“Israel uses different measures in order to stop the intifada in Jerusalem — by using law and settlement expansion.”

This week Israel began pushing through legislation that could see those who throw stones jailed for up to 20 years without the state needing to prove they intended to cause harm.

Since July there have been daily attacks on the light rail which connects the east with west of the city. It was originally built as a bridge between Palestinians and Jews, but today is a symbol of the city’s ethnic divide.

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