The crisis over Jerusalem’s holy precinct continues, more than two weeks after two Palestinian citizens of Israel shot and killed two Israeli Border Police on the compound known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Christians, and Haram al-Sharif to Muslims. Israel’s initial response, closing the grounds and then installing metal detectors, incensed Palestinians and many in the region, leading to demonstrations throughout East Jerusalem and calls for boycotting prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque until the new measures were reversed. The ensuing unrest resulted in the killing of three Palestinian protesters, a fatal diplomatic imbroglio in Jordan, and a terror attack that killed three Israelis in a West Bank settlement.
The dispute over the metal detectors in particular is an example of the wide gap in how Palestinians and Israelis perceive the conflict writ large. The installation of metal detectors changed a set of delicate arrangements for access to the site, which were carefully re-negotiated just two years ago by Israel and Jordan, after the last round of major violence in Jerusalem. Israelis considered the change a practical measure to rectify a security flaw that enabled the recent attackers to bring guns onto the compound; Palestinians, Jordanians and their regional supporters viewed it as an attempt by Israel to add another layer to Israel’s occupation of and creeping sovereignty over Palestinian territory.
Israel’s government removed the metal detectors, but the dispute is far from over. The Islamic Waqf, the nominal custodian of the Haram al-Sharif, has called on worshipers to resume prayers at the site as normal, but Palestinian grassroots leaders have called for a further boycott of prayer at the site. The crisis is subject to political gamesmanship by contending Israeli, Palestinian and regional actors, and American mediation has so far been a minor factor in managing the outcomes.
The three of us recently sat down to discuss the complex dynamics surrounding this latest Israeli-Palestinian conflagration. Watch our conversation here: