We all remember how the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in 2000 was used as a pretext by the Palestinians, who described it as a “provocation” and started the violence that became the Second Intifada. In fact, Sharon’s aides had in advance told Jibril Rajoub, who was then in charge of security on the Temple Mount, of his planned visit; Rajoub raised no objections at the time, though later he denied having been contacted by Sharon’s men. Tightly guarded by an Israeli security cordon, Sharon led a group of Israeli legislators onto the bitterly contested Temple Mount to assert Jewish claims there, setting off a stone-throwing clash that left several Palestinians and more than two dozen policemen injured.
The violence spread later to the streets of East Jerusalem and to the West Bank town of Ramallah, where six Palestinians were reportedly hurt as Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets and protesters hurled rocks and firebombs.
‘‘I brought a message of peace,” Mr. Sharon said after a one-hour tour of the Temple Mount that Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, condemned as a ”dangerous action” against Muslim holy sites.
‘‘I believe that Jews and Arabs can live together,” Mr. Sharon declared as stones and rubber-coated bullets flew at the holy site. ”It was no provocation whatsoever,” he said of his visit. ”It’s our right. Arabs have the right to visit everywhere in the Land of Israel, and Jews have the right to visit every place in the Land of Israel.”
The Palestinians, who had been looking for an excuse to start a massive upsurge in violence against the Israelis, found it in Sharon’s visit. In fact, he had done nothing more than visit, as Jews had been doing since 1967, the Temple Mount. He did not enter, nor get near, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He did not say, or silently mouth, a Jewish prayer. He did not make any provocative statements. But his mere appearance was enough for Palestinians to start rioting, throwing stones at Sharon and his party, with the violence then spreading to east Jerusalem and Ramallah, where Palestinians threw not just rocks, but also firebombs at Israeli police.
The visit of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the beginning of April did not go anywhere near the Temple Mount or Al-Aqsa. He went near to, but not right in front of, the Damascus Gate, which has often been the site where Palestinians have gathered to attack the Israeli police and Jewish civilians. Lapid made no provocative remarks, but appeared near the Damascus Gate to do one thing: to thank Israeli police for their tremendous efforts, during a period of great tension, to keep the area calm after three separate Palestinian terror attacks left 11 Israelis dead, in Beersheva, Hadera, and Bnei Brak. The Palestinians had cheered, and yelled the takbir, and handed out sweets, to celebrate the murders and the murderers. Surely, that was the true “provocation” – the murders of innocent Israelis and the ghoulish celebration of those murders — that deserves to be recognized. “Hamas: Israel to ‘bear consequences’ of Lapid’s Damascus Gate visit,” JNS, April 8, 2022:
“The storming of the Damascus Gate by the foreign minister of the Zionist enemy, Yair Lapid, is a dangerous escalation, and the occupation will be responsible for its consequences. We and our people pledge to protect Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque,” said Hamas in a statement.
Neither Lapid, nor anyone else in his party, went onto Temple Mount, and certainly never got anywhere near Al-Aqsa Mosque. There was no “storming” of the Damascus Gate. Lapid didn’t enter the Old City through the Gate. He left the Old City alone. Instead, he walked calmly – no “storming” was observable –near the Gate, where members of Israel’s security services had gathered, to thank them for their service and to express the country’s appreciation, amid a spike of violence and unrest – those 11 lives lost in terror attacks – that coincided with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 1. There had already been a night of rioting near the Damascus Gate before Lapid showed up, giving the lie to those who insisted that Lapid’s visit had provoked violence.
Of course, the Palestinians were ready, just as they had been in 2000 when Ariel Sharon had visited the Temple Mount, to turn this visit, which took place outside the Old City, into a reason to riot, and to attack Israelis throughout Jerusalem. Sure enough, a few hours after Lapid’s visit, riots broke out in the area for the second consecutive night, with rioters hurling bottles, rocks and other objects at police. One officer was wounded, according to police. An officer was also wounded during Saturday’s riots, having been struck in the head by a bottle.
“This is a tense time, but we have a police force that can be trusted,” Lapid said in a statement on Sunday evening. “The security forces have our full backing. They work professionally in impossible conditions. We are committed to them and will give them all necessary resources,” he added.
On Sunday, the Israeli government authorized the allocation of 181 million shekels ($56.5 million) in emergency funding to the Israel Police. The budget supplement was authorized “in light of the significant challenges that Israel’s police force currently faces and given the operational gaps that have accumulated in recent years,” according to an official statement.
Also on Sunday, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization in Gaza may launch missiles at Israel’s south in retaliation for Israel’s elimination on Saturday of a PIJ terrorist cell in Jenin, according to Channel 13 News.
Three PIJ terrorists were killed and four Israeli forces were wounded, one seriously, in a counter-terror operation early on Saturday morning in Judea and Samaria.
According to senior Israeli security officials, the cell was preparing to cross into Israel to carry out an attack in the center of the country similar to the one on March 29 in Bnei Brak, in which five people were killed.
Yair Lapid walked calmly to the microphone set up in the vicinity of the Damascus Gate, to honor members of Israeli security forces who had been working for 24 hours straight to contain Palestinian rioters. Those rioters, it needs to be emphasized, had begun their rioting long before Yair Lapid showed up; his visit could not have possibly been the cause of their riots. But the Palestinians didn’t care about the truth; hysterical cries about his “storming” of the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa itself spread round the city; stories about Lapid defiling the Al-Aqsa mosque whipped Arabs in Jerusalem into a frenzy; they hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israelis in response to the news of this entirely fictive outrage.
Thus has the story of Lapid’s brief appearance outside the Old City metamorphosed, in the telling of the Palestinian propagandists, into this: “Lapid’s outrageous storming, with Zionist soldiers of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where they beat innocent worshippers, will be avenged,” or words to that lying effect. For the Palestinian leaders trying to whip up murderous hatred, and to justify their own terror attacks, even the least offensive of outings can be turned into something monstrous.