Israel pushing Palestinians to violence with Temple Mount blockade & settler crimes – US State Dept.
Israel’s conduct, including the tightening of security measures around holy sites in Jerusalem and reluctance to restrain West Bank settler activity, is pushing Palestinians to resort to violence, the US State Department said in a new report.
The annual study, titled Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, hailed the Israeli government for its cooperation with Western partners on combatting terrorist groups in the region, but also took an uncharacteristically tough stance on Israel’s actions towards Palestinians.
“A lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, the perception that the Israeli government was changing the status quo on the Haram Al Sharif/Temple Mount, and IDF [Israel Defense Forces] tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive” are pushing Arabs to resort to violent extremism, the report acknowledged.
Settler activity on the West Bank has become another flashpoint in the sectarian tensions as “extremist Israelis, including settlers, continued to conduct acts of violence as well as ‘price tag’ attacks,” the paper added, referring to violent crime in retaliation to what Jewish fundamentalists deemed anti-settlement activities.
The report gives credit to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its long-time leader Mahmoud Abbas, praising him for “commitment to non-violence... disarmament of fugitive militants, arresting members of terrorist organizations, and gradually dismantling armed groups in the West Bank.”
“While some PA leaders have made provocative and inflammatory comments, the PA has made progress in reducing official rhetoric that could be considered incitement to violence,” it said.
“Explicit calls for violence against Israelis, direct exhortations against Jews, and categorical denials by the PA of the possibility of peace with Israel are rare and the leadership does not generally tolerate it.”
The report added, however, Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups had made “quantitative and qualitative advances in their military capabilities,” including acquiring medium and long-range rockets and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The report comes amid spiraling tensions in Jerusalem, where Israeli authorities restricted access to the Temple Mount – home to Muslim holy sites such as the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock – by installing metal detectors and fencing in and around the area.
The controversial security measures sparked massive unrest in the holy city and beyond, and a number of Muslim leaders have condemned Israeli actions.
PA leader Abbas has frozen all contacts with Israel, and until it reverses the controversial decision to tighten security around the holy places, Palestine will suspend all contact with Tel Aviv, Abbas said last Friday.
Earlier this week, the Arab League said Tel Aviv “is playing with fire and risking a major crisis with the Arab and Islamic world.”
A harshly-worded statement added that international community must “oblige the Israeli government to maintain the status quo” as its current policies “hurt the feelings” of the Palestinians and those of the entire Muslim world.
Turkish leader Recep Tayip Erdogan also fired off an emotional statement saying Israeli forces “carelessly pollute the grounds of Al-Aqsa with their combat boots by using simple issues as a pretext and then easily spill blood there.”
On Tuesday, massive anti-Israel rallies also broke out in neighboring Jordan – one of only two Arab countries to have a formal peace treaty with Tel Aviv – after a local teenager was shot dead in a scuffle with an Israeli embassy security guard on Sunday.
The crowd, chanting “Death to Israel!” demanded that the peace treaty be torn up and Israeli diplomats expelled.