Tensions between Jews and Muslims around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount are surging.
Since the January general election, right-wing and religious groups have stepped up their efforts to change the status quo between Jews and Muslims at this ultra-sensitive site − a development due in no small measure to the growing clout of Habayit Hayehudi in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A variety of initiatives, some of which might be considered bizarre and dangerous, is getting next to no coverage in the mainstream Israeli media. However, the other side − the Palestinians, the Islamic Movement in Israel, even the neighboring Arab states − is watching the events on the mount with increasing concern.
Arab fears have been fanned partly by political considerations that do not have very much to do with ideology or religion, but that makes little difference. A flare-up on the Temple Mount, which could erupt in the wake of even a small-scale confrontation, might well draw Israelis and the Palestinians into a more widespread clash and torpedo the peace negotiations between the sides (which seem to have little chance of succeeding as it is).
For its part, the Israeli security establishment is also very much aware of the situation at the site. However, at this stage no concrete steps are being taken to calm the atmosphere, though the senior political decision makers appear to want to preserve the status quo and prevent a sudden deterioration that could spark a broader conflagration.
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