Following the past weekend’s series of terrorist attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for an assessment of the security situation at a meeting on Sunday prior to the approaching Jewish High Holidays in October. Netanyahu issued orders and directives in preparation for another possible wave of terrorism.
The meeting was attended by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Deputy Police Commissioner Zohar Dvir, Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy, the deputy director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), a representative of the IDF, and personnel from the National Security Council.
“We take it as a given now that we always experience a sharp rise in Palestinian violence when the Jewish High Holidays take place around September and October,” former Shin Bet Section Chief Menachem Landau told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “It is not a new phenomenon, rather it has been the same for many years. As soon as Rosh Hashana [the Jewish New Year] looms, the levels of Palestinian violence against Jews begins to rise.”
Israeli authorities consider the last escalation in terrorist attacks across Israel to have begun in September of 2015 on the previous eve of the Jewish New Year, with the murder of Alexander Levlovich by five Palestinian stone-throwers from Sur Baher. The wave of terrorism that followed until about July, 2016 claimed the lives of 41 individuals, left hundreds more injured, and was dubbed ‘The Knife Intifada’ due the the large number of stabbing attacks that were perpetrated.
Dr. Shaul Bartal of the Middle East Department at Bar Ilan University offered one potential explanation as to the reason that the High Holidays seem to consist of periods of escalated violence.
“A massive event called ‘Al-Aqsa is in Danger’ is held every year in the city of Umm al-Fahm before the Jewish New Year,” explained Dr. Bartal. “The main speech is delivered by Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, in which he welcomes ‘resistance’ to Israel and encourages terrorist attacks by declaring that Jews are about to desecrate the Al-Aqsa mosque.”
According to both Bartal and Menachem Landau, the increased religious activity of Jewish worshipers in Jerusalem in general and around the Temple Mount in particular is presented every year as proof that “the Jews are converging on Al-Aqsa,” and helps generate incitement.
“The factor leading these terrorists, some of whom appear to be secular, to carry out attacks at this particular time is incitement pure and simple,” Landau argued to TPS. “They are radicalized in school and on the internet.” Bartal added that the issue of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa serves as a rallying point for both secular Muslims and religious Islamists. “Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa are national Palestinian symbols, not just religious ones.”
It is therefore no wonder that during the security assessment meeting today, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered that police forces be increased, especially in the Old City of Jerusalem and around the Temple Mount.
Netanyahu also demanded at the meeting that MKs and ministers continue to be prohibited from visiting the Temple Mount during this sensitive period, and he directed the relevant agencies that further action be taken against Palestinian incitement on social networks. He also ordered the establishment of a response team to refute disinformation about Israeli policy on the Temple Mount.