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26 July 2017

Solutions to Jerusalem will take time

By: Daoud Kuttab
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A well-known Arabic proverb says a crazy person might throw a stone in the well but it will take a hundred wise persons to get the stone out.
 
This proverb applies to the standoff regarding Al Aqsa Mosque, which has given more power to local Palestinians and allowed them for the first time in years to be in the driver’s seat.
 
The newly discovered Palestinian power stems from a simple, but powerful decision not to pray at Al Haram Al Sharif while the Israelis are attempting to change the status quo by introducing new restrictions.
 
And even though it appears that the metal detectors and cameras were removed as part of an unconfirmed Jordan-Israel trade off, Palestinians would not go pray at Al Aqsa.
 
Praying outside the mosque in a statement of protest has proved to be extremely powerful because it denied Israel’s claim that it supports freedom of prayer in Jerusalem to the followers of all faiths.
 
The gross miscalculation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rightwing colleagues is made worse by the fact that Netanyahu lent his support despite internal opposition.
 
The response to the retraction was quick, with 77 per cent of Israelis saying that Netanyahu’s decision to remove the metal gates is “capitulation”.
 
Leading Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea said in a July 25 piece in Yedioth Ahronoth that the way Netanyahu handled the events around Al Aqsa weakened the Israeli position.
 
“Placing the metal detectors and then removing them demonstrated to the entire world that Israel is not the landlord,” the Ynet website quoted Barnea as saying.
 
Yoram Halevy, the head of the Jerusalem police, Gilad Eran and the far-right Minister of Education Naftali Bennet were all in support of keeping the electronic gates at the mosque, in opposition to the chief of the Israeli intelligence service and the head of the Israeli army.
 
They, along with Netanyahu, clearly misjudged and overreached, and are now licking their wounds having lost this round and possibly weakened the overall Israeli position.
 
The people of Jerusalem, with their courageous and non-violent response — insisting to pray outside the gates — sent a strong message to the Israeli government about the futility of making decisions about Al Aqsa without consultation.
 
They have also shown that their wishes must be taken into consideration by all other parties.
 
The Palestinians of Jerusalem are independent and therefore they cannot be taken for granted.
 
The International Crisis Group recommended in numerous studies that genuine Palestinian leaders be involved in all decisions having to do with Al Aqsa.
 
A formula has to be reached that includes Palestinians in any decision-making process.
 
Non-violence was a big winner in the past 13 days as a powerful and effective tool for social change.
 
The voluntary decision to pray on the pavement rather than in carpeted mosques was a brilliant tactic that brought with it wide support.
 
In one phone video that has gone viral, a Palestinian Christian wearing a flag and carrying a Bible was seen as praying alongside his Muslim brothers.
 
The lesson from the events of Al Aqsa is clear: touching the status quo of Jerusalem’s Haram Al Sharif is a dangerous action that will not be ignored.
 
As the secretary general of the Arab League put it, “Al Aqsa is a red line that must not be crossed”.
 
At the same time, it is important for Palestinians in Jerusalem to stay united and to refrain from wide-ranging protests.
 
Because of the ability of the quickly arranged new leadership and the agility of the people of Jerusalem, the protests continued five times a day and became a powerful tool, reflecting badly on Israel as not being able to accommodate the right to pray in the third holiest house of worship.
 
The success of the effort was also guaranteed by patience and persistence.
 
As in the Arab proverb, it will require a large group of people to be able and reverse a miscalculated and badly thought out decision. 

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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