Temple Mount Crisis
Abbas Rejects Compromise, Calls for Mass Protests

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to recognize Israel’s compromise to remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount and has now called for mass protests this Friday. As The Times of Israel reports:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is ordering the leaders of the Fatah Tanzim militia to take part in planning mass demonstrations this Friday, and in the days that follow, over the continuing tensions on the Temple Mount.

Meetings are held today between representatives of various Palestinian factions at the office of Fatah deputy chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul. Jabal al-Mheissen, responsible for Tanzim on the Fatah central committee, and former Palestinian intelligence chief Tawfik Tirawi were at the meetings, along with the heads of Fatah’s regional branches in the West Bank.

The assembled leaders call to conduct Friday prayers in public places — not in mosques, in protests at continued security measures at the Temple Mount — as well as general readiness and “escalating” protests “in all of Palestine as an [act of] victory for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

As we wrote yesterday, the removal of metal detectors would not in and of itself resolve the crisis without a reasonable response from the Palestinians. Abbas’ answer makes clear that they will not see reason on this issue.

This is an exceptionally dangerous decision on the part of Abbas to push for further escalation. A poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 2 indicates that fully 77% of Israelis think the decision to remove the metal detectors was a form of capitulation. On a matter of basic security, the Israelis are unlikely to be willing to accept further compromises. If Abbas cannot accept the removal of the detectors as a sufficient concession to Palestinian demands then he is accepting a potentially enormous cycle of violence.

It’s worth asking what is motivating Abbas to accept those consequences. In recent weeks and months, the unprecedented level of cooperation between Israel and the Gulf Arab states has become increasingly obvious. That cooperation is predicated in large part on the willingness of the Arab states to ignore the Palestinian issue. To the extent that they are still engaged, it has been to Abbas’ detriment. Egypt and the UAE have backed a deal between Abbas’ rival Mohammed Dahlan and Hamas that could set up Dahlan as Abbas’ logical successor as leader of the Palestinian Authority. It’s possible then that the key to getting Abbas to back down may lie in Cairo or Abu Dhabi, rather than in Jerusalem.

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