The current crisis stems from tremendous disillusionment among the Palestinians, who just three or four years ago were convinced that they were finally on the brink of an independent state.
Then came the Arab Spring, the civil war in Syria, and they were shunted to the side. The Palestinians had built their hopes on the Americans, but they have abandoned the Mideast. The Europeans are having their own troubles with hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Within Israel, hopes for a change to a more liberal government were dashed when Netanyahu was re-elected.
As for Mahmoud Abbas, the only thing he delivered was not a state, but a flag, at the U.N., one of 157. Not what the people had hoped for at all. And Hamas, still trying to recover from the disastrous war last year, was in no condition to lead an insurrection.
What happened? A marketing ploy: “Al Aqsa in Danger.” Money for the campaign of incitement was provided by Israeli Arabs, for the purpose of hiring a few dozen jobless men and women to stand at the approach to Har Habayis and in the alleyways of the Old City and to scream and spit in front of the cameras, and claim that the Israelis were trying to take over their holy place.
The strategy succeeded. For the first time in a year and a half, the Palestinian issue was back in the news. But when they issued a call for the Palestinians to come out en masse during the Chagim, there was no response. Not from Hamas, not from Fatah, not from the masses. They had no stomach for another intifada.
Only the Palestinian youth, who had not paid the price of previous uprisings, answered the call, and the rock-throwing began, followed by worse.
The Israeli government decided not to react, not to aggravate the situation. The defense and security experts thought the wave would pass, things would settle down. But in this they were taking a risk. By not clamping down, they risked an escalation, and matters got out of hand.
If the violence persists, and it becomes evident that the Palestinians have indeed taken a new direction, then the Israeli authorities will have no choice but to respond with the “firm hand” Netanyahu has warned of.