The escalation of violence in the Old City of Jerusalem seems to have been contained after the outbreak on Friday, when more than 150 Palestinians were injured and nearly 400 were arrested in clashes with Israeli police in the Temple Mount. The irruption of the security forces in the religious compound has already triggered, however, far-reaching political and diplomatic consequences. The Islamist United Arab List (Raam, in its acronym in Hebrew) party has suspended its support for the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in protest at the incidents at the Al Aqsa mosque. The votes of its four deputies are key to the stability of a coalition that has just lost its majority in the Knesset (Parliament). In a new twist, the Iron Dome missile shield intercepted a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip towards southern Israel on Monday night. It is the first projectile launched from the Palestinian Strip in four months.
The religious tension in the walled enclosure of the Holy City remains latent in conjunction with Jewish Easter and Holy Week, now of the preponderant Orthodox Christians in the Middle East. The Shura Council, which exercises spiritual leadership over the United Arab List, agreed on Sunday night to temporarily “freeze” the Arab party’s participation in the coalition without definitively withdrawing its support, pending developments in the two remaining weeks of the Muslim holy month of fasting and prayer.
Raam has been the first political force of the Arab minority – a fifth of the Israeli population – to join a government coalition in the nearly 74-year history of the State of Israel. It does not have ministries, but its participation in the approval of laws and budgets has been decisive for the survival of the so-called Government of Change, which removed the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu 10 months ago, after 12 years in power. Mansur Abbas [líder de Raam] is aware that any alternative would be worse, “says Yossi Verter, political analyst for the newspaper Ha’aretz. To regain the post of prime minister, Netanyahu needs to count on the extreme religious right, supported by anti-Arab Jewish extremists.
After the flight of an ultra-conservative deputy on the 6th, the Government lost the scratched majority of 61 votes it held in a 120-seat Knesset. The departure of the Orthodox Jew Idit Silman, who was the head of the parliamentary group of a coalition made up of three right-wing forces, two centrists, two from the left and Raam’s Islamists, left Bennett touched, but not sunk. An eventual loss of support from the United Arab List, however, would threaten to cause shipwreck. Until the next session of the Legislative Chamber begins in early May, it remains to be seen whether the withdrawal of the coalition has been a symbolic gesture to please its conservative Muslim voters or represents the prologue to a definitive break.
After the explosion of violence on Friday in the Old City of Jerusalem, the incidents have been reproduced, although on a much smaller scale. Thousands of Jews attended the priestly blessing of Easter at the Western Wall, at the foot of the Esplanade of the Mosques, on Monday. The ceremony took place without incident, although with a lower influx than expected after the lifting of the restrictions imposed two years ago due to the pandemic.
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Prime Minister Bennett has given “carte blanche” to the security forces to guarantee security after the wave of attacks that have claimed the lives of 14 people in the last month in Israeli cities. This Monday he blamed the Islamist movement Hamas for being behind the recent incidents on the Esplanade of the Mosques. “Israel is doing everything in its power so that everyone – Jews, Muslims and Christians – can celebrate the holidays [religiosas] safely (…) and with Jerusalem open to all”, he declared in an official statement after the cascade of calls for a return to calm in the Holy City from Europe, the United States, the Vatican or the UN. The Security Council plans, according to France Presse, to hold a session on Tuesday to examine the situation in Jerusalem.
The most emphatic messages have reached the Israeli government from Muslim countries with which it maintains diplomatic relations. The closest one, Jordan, summoned Israel’s chargé d’affaires to the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Amman on Monday to demand an end to “illegal violations of Israel.” [del statu quo] and the provocations around Al Aqsa”. Under the peace treaty signed by both countries in 1994, the King of Jordan acts as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
New Muslim allies distance themselves from Israel
The United Arab Emirates and Morocco, which attended just three weeks ago the diplomatic summit organized in Israel that staged the strategic alliance with four Arab countries, have condemned in separate statements “the assault on the Esplanade of the Mosques” and “the incursion of forces Israelis”. The Emirates has called to protect the faithful and to cease attacks on the sanctity of Al Aqsa. Rabat has lashed out at “flagrant aggression and deliberate provocation” in the holy month of Ramadan. The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who in recent months had taken steps to approach Israel after a long decade of disagreements, has also condemned the “intervention against the faithful” as “a threat to his status quo and spirit [islámico]”. The President of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, officially visited Erdogan last month in a gesture of reconciliation after the freezing of bilateral relations in 2018, following the death of Palestinian protesters by shots fired by Israeli forces on the border of the strip. from Gaza.