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PA officials: Netanyahu seeking crisis in Jerusalem

Sept. 28, 2009 4:09 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 29, 2009 12:53 P.M.)
Ramallah – Ma'an – Palestinian officials say they expect the current Israeli government to take the region into a period of renewed confrontation, especially in light of Sunday’s violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

In conversations with Ma’an, officials recalled that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also prime minister in 1996 when Israel’s construction of the Western Wall tunnels sparked an uprising that claimed the lives of 70 Palestinians and 17 Israeli soldiers.

Sunday’s clashes began when Israeli settlers, backed by police, entered the Al-Aqsa compound. Israeli riot police dispersed crowds of stone-throwing demonstrators with stun grenades and batons. Dozens were wounded.

Fundamentally, Palestinian leaders believe that with Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, they are facing two politicians who believe they can benefit from renewed violence and security chaos, especially when Israel is facing a kind of international isolation, over ongoing expansion of West Bank settlements.

Palestinian officials told Ma’an that Netanyahu would support a policy of confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians in order to implement his political agenda even if it means bloodshed on both sides.

These officials as well as political analysts believe that Netanyahu-Barak government plans to drag the Palestinians into a military confrontation in order to avoid and avoid commitments to prior political agreements, namely the Road Map peace plan.

Meanwhile, other Palestinian officials believe that Sunday’s events at the Al-Aqsa Mosque were an Israeli attempt to test whether the Palestinians would be ready for a confrontation with Israel in defense of Jerusalem as a Muslim holy site. Israel’s percieved attempts to inflame sensitive religious issues are seen as dangerous, containing the potential to drag the whole region to a new cycle of violence and bloodshed.

According to Haeim Abdul Qader, the former minister of Jerusalem affairs, Sunday’s events and Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 2000 are connected. Both events represent the same provocative Israeli message to the Palestinians, he said. Abdul Qader also said that the incident will not be the last of its kind. Thus, he called on Palestinians to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque continuously to protect it against similar assaults by extremists.

According to Abdul Qader, Israel has not achieved its goals for the second Palestinian uprising which erupted after Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa in 2000, and so they prefer to repeat the same story to avoid commitment to political agreements.

Ahmad Ruweidi, who is in charge of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian president’s office agrees with Abdul Qader that whenever Israel is under political pressure, is seeks to create new crises.
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