Saturday’s US-brokered deal between Israel and Jordan to reduce tensions over Jerusalem’s al-Haram al-Sharif holy site is diversionary in substance and context. As such, it is by no means certain that it will contribute to ending the latest escalation of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which began last month.
The agreement misdiagnoses its cause and minimises Palestinian grievances; so even if it does calm tensions, it will do so temporarily until the next inevitable flare-up. So far, however, it has made no difference on the ground with attacks continuing by both sides.
The main aspects of the deal involve round-the-clock video monitoring of the holy site and Israel’s reaffirmation of Jordan’s historic custodianship over the shrine. The impetus seems to be more about improving Israeli-Jordanian ties – which have been strained by the latest escalation in violence – rather than genuinely addressing Palestinian grievances.
Last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned that “any more provocations in Jerusalem will affect the relationship between Jordan and Israel
Officials from both countries are to discuss who will conduct the video monitoring, though no date for consultations has been set yet. However, since the deal was announced, Israel has already blocked the installation of cameras by the Jordanian-run Islamic trust that administers the holy site.
Also, there are no indications so far that Palestinian monitoring will be an option, and sole or predominant Israeli monitoring will represent a whitewash. Little wonder, then, that Palestinian officials – seemingly sidelined by the deal – have reacted negatively.
There is also the issue of Israeli impunity, even when provocations are filmed and documented. In July, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem highlighted once again “the authorities’ policy to avoid enforcing the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians and their property”.
And according to a report in May by Israeli human rights organisation, Yesh Din: “The probability that a complaint submitted to the Israel police by a Palestinian will lead to an effective investigation that results in the location of a suspect, and followed by indictment, trial and conviction, is just 1.9 percent.”
If punishments, on the rare occasions they are meted out, are largely symbolic or a slap on the wrist, why should this stop Israeli provocateurs?
Furthermore, how Netanyahu plans to prevent provocations before they occur is anyone’s guess, and raises the possibility of using dubious pretexts to arrest Palestinians and justify other forms of repression.
Arguably, the deal’s biggest flaw is its narrow scope: Its premise is that the cause of the current escalation was events at the holy site. However, like the second Intifada of 2000, the site was the trigger, not the cause – this is an important distinction.
Palestinian anger was already pent up by myriad Israeli provocations. The fuel was already poured; events at the holy site simply provided the match.
It serves Israel’s interests to divert attention away from this fact by minimising and compartmentalising Palestinian grievances. At one time, it might be the siege of Gaza; next, it might be discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, then settlement construction in the West Bank, and currently, the status of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Israel goes to great lengths to separate these intrinsically linked issues so the world does not notice the totality of the injustices facing the Palestinians, and so their anger seems unreasonable