Are the Palestinians looking for an excuse for another intifada...
They've gone gaga over the Temple Mount....
The Palestinian Authority has been waging a diplomatic campaign against Israel for the past two weeks over what it terms "provocations" on the Temple Mount.
At a closed briefing for foreign ambassadors last Tuesday, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned that the situation on the mount could quickly deteriorate into a "loss of control" by the PA and asked them to submit official protests to Israel over its "provocations" there, a senior Israeli government official said.
That prompted Sweden, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency, to ask Jerusalem to work to calm the situation during this week's Jewish holidays.
While the PA has always conducted intensive diplomatic activity with regard to Jerusalem, it has previously focused on issues such as Israeli construction in East Jerusalem or the eviction of Palestinian families from homes in the city's Arab neighborhoods. But following the clashes on the Temple Mount last Sunday, the eve of Yom Kippur, it began warning the international community about the possibility of a conflagration there.
According to reports that have reached Israel about Fayyad's meeting with the ambassadors, the PA prime minister described last Sunday's clashes as "an assault by extremist religious settlers on the Temple Mount compound" and said it was "a provocation planned in advance that was aimed at sabotaging the peace process and derailing [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama's peace initiative."
Warning that the situation on the mount was flammable and could swiftly deteriorate, he added, "I remind you that this is where the Al-Aqsa Intifada began, after [Ariel] Sharon's visit" to the mount in September 2000. "The Palestinians' popular response stems from the Israeli aggression, and we are liable to lose control over events."
He therefore urged the ambassadors to protest to Israel and "demand a change in its behavior" on the mount.
Fayyad's description of last Sunday's events bears no resemblance to Israel's version. According to senior Israeli officials, members of a right-wing Jewish organization did indeed declare their intent to ascend the mount on the morning of September 27, but police prevented them from even entering the Temple Mount compound.
Shortly thereafter, however, a group of French tourists - most of them Christians - came to the mount for a previously arranged tour, and hundreds of Palestinian worshipers, who had apparently been awaiting the right-wing activists, began hurling stones at them. Police responded with tear gas, and in the ensuing clashes, 30 people were wounded - half of them policemen and half Palestinians.
Nevertheless, Fayyad's plea drew a swift response from the United States and many EU countries, all of which demanded explanations of last Sunday's events from Israeli officials.
The United States was satisfied by Israel's explanation and dropped the matter. However, several European countries - headed by Sweden, whose relationship with Israel has also been deteriorating - sent worried messages demanding that Israel work to calm the situation.
The tensions reached a peak last Tuesday, when the Palestinians told several foreign embassies that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intended to accompany right-wing activists to the East Jerusalem village of Silwan to dedicate a new tunnel.
In fact, Netanyahu was merely planning to treat his senior aides to dinner at a nearby restaurant - an event that was ultimately canceled due to a heavy work load. Nevertheless, both American officials in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Israel contacted the Prime Minister's Office to demand explanations for the alleged tunnel dedication, while senior officials in Sweden's Foreign Ministry demanded similar explanations of Israel's ambassador in Stockholm.