On April 15, a new round of clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, injuring more than 100 people. On April 17, the two sides clashed again in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and surrounding areas. The Israeli government was therefore questioned and accused, and the Israeli Arab political party “United Arab List” once threatened to withdraw from the ruling coalition. Earlier in late March, many places in Israel suffered violent attacks. The Israeli military used this as an excuse to launch a large-scale search operation in the West Bank and clashed with Palestinians. In April this year, Ramadan in Islam, Passover in Judaism, Good Friday and Easter in Christianity rarely met together, and this is the reason for the conflict between the two sides.
Clashes in the al-Aqsa mosque area
The Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem is the third largest mosque in Islam, and its area is also the holy site of Judaism, the Temple Mount. As part of the 1994 settlement between Jordan and Israel, non-Muslim tourists were allowed to visit the al-Aqsa mosque area under the supervision of the Islamic Wagf of Jerusalem (the administrator of the holy quarter of the al-Aqsa mosque), but only Muslims were allowed to enter it pray.
In fact, for a long period of time, Israeli officials have banned their own Jews from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque area, and Muslims have also rejected Jews from entering it. When I was doing fieldwork in Jerusalem, I saw a notice board expressly prohibiting Jews from entering the Israeli security checkpoint at the tourist entrance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In September 2000, the then-elected Israeli Prime Minister Sharon forcibly entered it, triggering a fierce resistance from the Palestinians and eventually leading to a serious escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in recent years, Israel has gradually allowed right-wing members of the Jewish community to enter the mosque area and conduct religious activities. During the Jewish Passover festival this year, more ultra-Orthodox Jews entered the al-Aqsa mosque area under the protection of Israeli police to pray. Palestinians see this as a provocative action by Jews, and the protection of these Jews by the Israeli police makes Palestinians even more worried that this is a prelude to Israel’s takeover or division of the Al-Aqsa mosque area.
Regarding this accusation by the Palestinians, an Israeli scholar said in response to the author’s related questions that Israel has no plans to change the status quo of the Al-Aqsa mosque area. But in any case, it has become a fact that the Israeli police and the Palestinians clashed again. April 15 this year is both the most important Sunday of the Muslim week and the beginning of the Jewish Passover. According to Israeli officials, dozens of people with the logo of the “Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement” (Hamas) marched in the al-Aqsa mosque area at noon that day and threw stones at the Israeli police and the Jewish holy site “Wailing Wall”. As a result, fierce clashes broke out between the police and each other in the Al-Aqsa Mosque area; and according to foreign media reports, Palestinians believe that the offense by the Jews to Al-Aqsa Mosque triggered their own protests.
In fact, over the years, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the situation in Jerusalem tends to get tense. Ramadan is the “Holy Month” of Islam. During this period, more Palestinians want to go to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to worship, and Friday is the most important Sunday of the week for Muslims, so every Friday goes to Al-Aqsa. The number of worshippers in the Kesa Mosque is particularly high. For example, on April 22 this year, which was a Sunday, 150,000 Palestinians poured into the Al-Aqsa mosque area. The gathering of such large numbers of Palestinians, coupled with the usual political speeches before services, is often viewed as a destabilizing factor by the Israeli police and is guarded against. The security situation in Jerusalem has been particularly tense this year due to the rare coincidence of Jewish Passover, Christian Easter and Islamic Ramadan.
Will the war be rekindled?
After the re-emergence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas once threatened to withdraw from all agreements signed with Israel and postpone the recognition of the state of Israel when meeting with US diplomats, and called on the United States to immediately put pressure on Israel.
Israeli police and Palestinians clash near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 15, 2022.
The reaction of some organizations in the Gaza Strip was even stronger. Hamas, the de facto controller of the Gaza Strip, and other smaller Islamic “jihadist groups” have been dissatisfied with Israel’s actions in Jerusalem, especially the al-Aqsa mosque area, so whenever Israel and Palestine are in Jerusalem When violent clashes break out, Hamas and other Gaza groups make tough statements against Israel. After the conflict, Hamas organized more than one demonstration in solidarity with the Palestinians in Jerusalem in the northern Gaza Strip. In addition, armed groups in the Gaza Strip fired a small number of rockets into Israel. On April 21, Israeli Defense Minister Gantz said that the Israel Defense Forces were ready to deal with the worsening of the conflict.
But overall, both Hamas and Israel are maintaining a certain level of calm and restraint. This is partly because the economic and social conditions of the Gaza Strip are already very bad. At present, neither political and military organizations nor ordinary people in the region are willing to engage in another violent conflict with Israel. On the other hand, after the outbreak of the conflict, the Israeli Arab political party “United Arab List” once threatened to withdraw from the ruling coalition if the Israeli government continued to pursue the policy of suppressing Palestinians in Jerusalem. Once the “United Arab List” with four parliamentary seats withdraws from the ruling coalition, the current Israeli government will be at risk of collapse by losing its narrow majority in the parliament. Therefore, this conflict poses a greater threat to the current Israeli government.
The international community cannot ignore the question of Palestine
Nevertheless, in view of the brutal 11-day war between the Gaza Strip and Israel in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in May 2021, and the high degree of relevance between many other issues in the Middle East and the Palestinian issue, many people are concerned about the next Palestinian issue. Concerned about the trend of conflict. At present, many international parties, including Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations, have actively mediated between Israel and Hamas.
In addition, many Arab countries, including Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, which have established diplomatic relations with Israel for less than a year, also severely condemned Israel’s tough actions against Palestinians in Jerusalem. On April 19, the UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Lim Hashemi summoned the Israeli Ambassador to the UAE, Amir Hayek, to stress the UAE’s concern over the conflict and expressed support for the establishment of a An independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In fact, the “two-state solution” is still the mainstream view of the international community on the settlement of the Palestinian issue. It is worth noting that although the United States has recognized the entire Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the international community has so far generally refused to recognize this. Even the United Kingdom, a staunch ally of the United States, does not believe that Israel has full sovereignty over Jerusalem.
However, even with the frequent occurrence of new problems in the Middle East, the Palestinian issue still occupies an important position. Since May 2021, there have been two consecutive rounds of serious conflicts between Palestine and Israel in less than a year, which shows the urgency of resolving the Palestinian issue. Over the past year, the Chinese government has spoken out on the Palestinian issue many times, openly opposing any unilateral changes to the historical status quo in Jerusalem, and hope that relevant parties will remain calm and restrained to prevent the situation from getting out of control. At the same time, China believes that the Palestine issue should not be marginalized, and calls on the international community to increase its attention and investment in the Palestine issue, face up to the crux of the Palestine issue, and push for an early resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, and a “two-state solution” to resolve the Palestine issue.