Gershon Baskin concludes that in the current wave of violence, facts have nothing to do with perception and perception has nothing to do with what people believe.
I spent all day in the Old City including a visit to the Haram Asharif-Al Aqsa/Temple Mount and in Ramallah. It is truly amazing how the horrible events of the last days are perceived totally differently on each side of the conflict lines.
From my talking and listening to many Palestinians over the past days I can conclude that no matter what we say about Israel not having plans to take over Al Aqsa, facts have nothing to do with perception and what people believe. Palestinians honestly believe that Israel has grand designs for changing the status quo on the Temple Mount/Al Aqsa. People told me quite clearly that the problem is not solely a religious one – perhaps not even mainly a religious problem – it is political, and it has to do with the continuation and the entrenchment of the occupation. The symbol of that entrenchment is Israeli control and domination over the Tempe Mount/Al Aqsa.
Here is what I think has to be done:
Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas1. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should immediately notify President Abbas that he is welcome to invite the leaders of the Arab world to come and pray in al-Masjid al-Aqsa (the Farthest Mosque).
(at the invitation of President Mahmoud Abbas- not Israel’s).
The list of invitees hopefully would include
King Abdallah of Jordan
King Mohammed of Morocco
King Salman of Saudi Arabia
President Sisi of Egypt
Israel and the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf2. Israel should be holding regular, ongoing and quiet talks with the Jordanian and Palestinian Waqfs which are in control of what goes on all over the Mount.
I assume that these talks are taking place but the return to status quo means that the Israeli police will refrain from enter the Mount on the condition that the officials from the waqfs guarantee that stones, bottles and other explosive devices will not be brought into the mosques or any area on top that will be used for throwing at Jews praying at the Wall.
Israel and the Palestinian National Security Forces
3. Israel should agree that PA security personnel be allowed back onto the Mount and in the Old City and in Palestinian neighborhoods, as they used to be during the first years of the Oslo peace process. They were then in civilian dress, some of them had weapons -agreed to by Israel, others did not. They had to ability to bring suspects to Ramallah for questioning and arrest if necessary. Israel does not patrol the Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem on a regular basis – there are places that they don’t even enter. It is important to provide these people with a sense of security and for them to know that eventually understandings will be reached between Israel and Palestine on the future of Jerusalem.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.