Temple Mount Riot Shows Tough Balancing Act for Mahmoud Abbas

By Bryant, Christa Case | The Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 2010 | Go to article overview

Temple Mount Riot Shows Tough Balancing Act for Mahmoud Abbas


Bryant, Christa Case, The Christian Science Monitor


The Temple Mount riot in Jerusalem erupted after a Palestinian was killed by an Israeli security guard. Rising tensions are a challenge for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hinted Tuesday night that he may stick with peace talks even if Israel doesn't extend a settlement freeze, softening a precondition he had insisted on until then.

But an outbreak of violence around Jerusalem's Temple Mount today suggests that Palestinian anger over an expanding Jewish presence may be reaching a boiling point. Such a disconnect between Mr. Abbas and average Palestinians could threaten or even end the talks - as well as Abbas's political career.

"I cannot say I will leave the negotiations, but it's very difficult for me to resume talks if [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu declares that he will continue his activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem," he was quoted as saying at a dinner for American Jewish leaders in New York.

Violence in Silwan spreads to Old City

The violence began in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, a predominately Palestinian area in the shadow of the Old City's southern walls that has become a flashpoint in broader Israeli- Palestinian tensions.

Early Wednesday morning a private Israeli security guard hired to protect some of the area's roughly 300 Jews shot dead a Palestinian man amid a skirmish with rock-throwing protesters. Riots ensued, during which several cars were torched and at least half a dozen passers-by injured.

Later in the day, Palestinians atop the Al Aqsa mosque compound hurled stones down at Jews visiting the Western Wall ahead of the Sukkot holiday until they were stopped by Israeli police. The Jerusalem Post reports that three public buses were destroyed near the Western Wall, a driver was injured, and eight protesters were arrested. The Post quoted an interview from Israel's Channel 2 news, in which the manager of the security guard that shot the Palestinian described the event as being "like an ambush."

While the streets of Jerusalem had reportedly calmed by evening, the violence demonstrated escalating tensions around the Old City. From Sheikh Jarrah in the north to Silwan in the south, the strategic expansion of Jewish areas has sparked rising Palestinian anger - and revitalized the Israeli left, whose activists have been attending weekly demonstrations in both communities.

Palestinian youth moving toward extremism

As the Monitor reported last week, East Jerusalem has emerged as a battleground between competing Israeli and Palestinian claims for sovereignty in a city central to both peoples. Israelis see Jerusalem as the heart of the Jewish nation, and crucial to its preservation, referring to it as their "undivided and eternal capital. …

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