by Nadav Shragai
There are practical steps Israel must take to keep Hamas out of the Jerusalem game.
Hamas hasn't given up. Israel's insistence on holding the flag march in Jerusalem on Tuesday, although along a different route, won't get Hamas out of the corner into which it's backed itself.
For six weeks already, the terrorist organization has been trying to position itself as a key player in the battle for Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque. It sent thousands of its operatives, in conjunction the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, to Jerusalem in an attempt to "conquer" the Temple Mount. It's people kicked the PA-appointed mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, out of Al-Aqsa during a Friday sermon, daring to call him "the PA's dog" while singing the praises of arch-terrorist Mohammed Deif.
Prime Minister Bennett passed the first test of his job on Tuesday, but he'll certainly be hearing from security official with whom he'll be speaking that Hamas' presence in Jerusalem is destabilizing, and that the story isn't over yet. This presence wears the ideological hat of the Muslim Brotherhood and, practically speaking, enjoys support from both branches of the Islamic Movement in Israel – the Northern and Southern. All of this under the auspices of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sees himself as a patron of the Muslim Brotherhood in the world in general and in Israel in particular.
This informal coalition was made clear a few weeks ago when heads of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement, including MK Mansour Abbas, visited a protest tent set up in Kafr Kana after Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the Northern Branch, was arrested. A Turkish flag was on display in the tent. Khatib is accused of encouraging terrorism and violence in the form of recent unrest in Jaffa, Lod, and the Temple Mount, and by his alleged praise for the rioting that murdered Jews.
The Hamas-Muslim Brotherhood coalition in Jerusalem could also be seen when the leadership of the Ra'am party and the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement visited Sheikh Ikrama Sabri at the beginning of last year. The visit took place after Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem and Erdogan's man on the Temple Mount – was questioned by police. Sabri, who has a record of tacit support for suicide bombings, was ordered to keep away from the Temple Mount numerous times due to his incitement and radical statements. The visit by Ra'am and Southern Branch officials was defined as one of "identification."
If Israel wants to take Hamas out of the Temple Mount game, it needs to focus on legal, police, and administrative action against the Hamas coalition in Jerusalem, the Galilee, the "triangle" region of northern Israel, and the Negev. But now, it's much more complicated because the Ra'am MKs, even though they are part of the coalition, have a place at the cabinet table and thereby partly whitewash the activity of Hamas supporters in Jerusalem at Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount
Another course of action Israel must insist upon is ensuring free movement for Jews on HaGay Street on their way to the Western Wall, as well as along the path that runs parallel to the wall for it 488 meters (1,601 feet), even the part of that distance that has been swallowed up by homes in the Muslim quarter over the years.
Given the circumstances, the concession on Tuesday not to hold the flag march on HaGay St. was understandable, but it must not become a habit. There are Jewish homes, as well as schools, yeshivas, and other Torah and charity institutions on HaGay St. Tourists and Jewish visitor flock there, and it is also the site of the "Little Wall." All that must be developed, even after Tuesday's temporary retreat.