16 September '15..
The murder of Alexander Levlovich, who was killed on Sunday night after his car was hit by rocks, should not be classified as being part of a popular uprising or "intifada." Neither should these terms apply to the rocks and firebombs that have targeted Jewish residents in or near east Jerusalem for the past several months. Those definitions are too forgiving and show too much empathy, as if we are trying to understand the perpetrators.
Palestinians have used rocks to kill 13 Israelis, although not in Jerusalem. The toddler Adele Biton was targeted in 2013 and died two years later; Asher Palmer and his son Yonatan were killed in 2011. Despite those ongoing attacks, it seems we are always surprised when a rock results in death.
The recent wave of attacks in Jerusalem (amounting to hundreds of rock-throwing incidents and firebombings every month) is unique because it largely feeds on the ongoing incitement spread from the Temple Mount. This incitement sets the area ablaze time and time again primarily because it has used one successful rallying cry: "The Al-Aqsa mosque is under threat."
It is not too hard to fight back against those who spread this libelous claim. Last week, for example, Israel finally did something on that front (albeit several years too late): It outlawed the "mourabitoun" and "mourabitaat" (Arabic for male and female sentries) -- two groups of provocateurs affiliated with the Islamic Movement in Israel, who regularly hold vocal protests in the Temple Mount area. They have been instigating violence in the area for years on end, making sure Jews who visit the site endure a living nightmare.
What happened in Jerusalem this Rosh Hashanah is a reaction to the Israeli crackdown. Hamas and the Islamic Movement's northern branch are clearly trying to challenge the authority of Israeli law enforcement. Israel is now being tested on its actions, and on its public diplomacy.
Israel's Foreign Affairs Min.
As for its actions -- Israel must show that it means business. It must show that it is willing to enforce the ban on the "mourabitoun" and "mourabitaat." It must not be content with "restoring calm to the Temple Mount," because past conflagrations have taught us that such calm is always temporary and has a ripple effect on Jerusalem and beyond.
In terms of public diplomacy -- Israel can and should confront the "Al-Aqsa is under threat" blood libel head on, because it is more than just propaganda and it has led to violence, blood and victims for years on end. Israel cannot ignore that fact. It must also tell the world what really takes place on the Temple Mount and highlight the concessions it has made to accommodate Muslim worshippers.
For the past several years, Israel has upheld its part of the status quo. So much so, that Jewish worshippers have almost always got the short end of the stick, while the Islamic administrators of the site have successfully effected drastic changes in their favor. Israel made a major concession following the 1967 Six-Day War, when it decided to let the Islamic Waqf hold de facto control of Judaism's holiest site -- despite the fact that it is only the third-holiest place in Islam. Israel went even further and banned Jewish prayer at the site.
Thus, Israel has agreed to let the Waqf take almost everything, leaving Jewish worshippers with nothing but "one little ewe lamb" (2 Samuel 12:3): They are granted access to the site, as long as they do not pray there. Jews must ensure that this right is upheld on a daily basis, even if that means standing up to Jordanian pressure and even if it results in conflicting interests with Jordan.
If the ongoing clashes on the site do not let up and continue to reverberate across Jerusalem, Israel can resort to other means that would gradually ratchet up pressure. As a last resort, it could ban Muslims from the site for a prolonged period. Perhaps Muslim worshippers will then realize that they too have something to lose if they do not change course.