Jerusalem was the scene of Palestinian riots expressing outrage over the reopening of a synagogue which had been destroyed by Jordanian forces in 1948 war and in the aftermath of a US rebuke of Israel for building settlements in East Jerusalem. The incidents were “part of a ‘Day of Rage’ called for by Palestinian leaders in response to the recent reopening of a historic synagogue in the Old City.”
Though the U.S. had been engaged in a high-profile dispute with the Israel government over a proposed 1,600-unit housing settlement in a disputed neighborhood of Jerusalem, the protests in recent days have stemmed from the reopening of the Hurva synagogue, which was destroyed by Jordanian forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
The BBC described Jerusalem as a “tinder-box”. “Palestinians at the scene gave a range of reasons for their anger, but there was one common theme – a growing feeling that they are being squeezed out of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, where they want the capital of their future state.”
“This government is not like any other government that has governed Israel, they want to ignite everything.”
“Every time they talk about peace, the answer from the Israeli government is more buildings [in East Jerusalem] and more closures,” said Rida Zamamiri, 25, also watching the clashes.
The Guardian says that the US has been given an opportunity to prove it can get tough on Israel. It quoted Hillary Clinton as saying she expected Israel to back down and offer concessions to the Palestinians to entice them to the negotiating table. “The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, today demonstrated a new-found steeliness towards Israel by making it clear she was expecting it to back down in the row between the two countries and offer concessions needed for a resumption of Middle East peace talks.” Israel, said Clinton according to the AP, had to prove its commitment to peace. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu retorted that “the government of Israel has proved its commitment to peace in the last year in words and in deeds.”
The Times of London says that “for the first time there are voices questioning Israel’s strategic value”. Reuters says that the US-Israeli “bitter public spat” has thrown a monkey wrench into Clinton’s plans. Washington has publicly stated it expects Israel to eat humble pie — and give President Obama what he wants. “Analysts said the Obama administration wants to quell the dispute — Clinton on Tuesday stressed the “absolute” U.S. commitment to Israel’s security — while still extracting concessions from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” Otherwise the future talks will be derailed.
Clinton leaves on Wednesday for a 36-hour visit built around a meeting of the quartet of Middle East peace mediators — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.
U.S. officials said they had hoped the quartet meeting, scheduled before the housing dispute flared during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Israel last week, would bless the start of the indirect peace talks.
With “rage” in East Jerusalem and “rage” in Washington, Netanyahu must decide whether to cool things down by conceding or up the ante and letting the fire burn.