Notice proclaiming the Palestinian "victory" over Israel following the dismantling of the security installations. The Arabic reads, "The occupation surrendered to the firm stance of the residents of Jerusalem and removes the bridges [the installations for the security cameras]" (Palinfo Twitter account, July 27, 2017).
Dismantling the security camera scaffolding amid a mass celebration of Arabs from east Jerusalem yelling "Allahu akbar" (Facebook page of QudsN, July 27, 2017).
Mass prayer held in front of the Lions' Gate in east Jerusalem on the morning of July 27, 2017 (Facebook page of QudsN, July 27, 2017).
Overview of Current Situation
1. On the night of July 26, 2017, Israel dismantled the scaffolding for "smart" security cameras at the entrances to the Temple Mount, meant to be set up at a later date. A "senior source" in the Israel Police Force reported that by doing so the [security] situation had returned to status quo ante before the shooting attack, that is, the absence of any effective check at any of the gates through which Muslims enter the Temple Mount compound (Ynet and Haaretz, July 27, 2017). The scaffolding was dismantled after the removal of the metal detectors (July 25, 2017), which had been installed at the entrances to the Temple Mount compound, following a decision of the Israeli Political-Security Cabinet.
2. The removal of the installation heightened the sensation of "victory" over Israel felt by various Palestinian agencies involved in the Temple Mount crisis. In Palestinian perspective, it was not only a victory of removing security measures and preserving the status quo. It was a victory to increase Palestinian sovereignty and influence on the Temple Mount and in Jerusalem. After the security cameras were removed, thousands of shouting Palestinians took to the streets of east Jerusalem to celebrate. However, on the morning of July 27, 2017, a mass morning prayer was nevertheless held outside the Temple Mount compound, waiting for a later decision from the Muslim religious leadership.
Cartoon of the "victory" over the security cameras: "Victory is better than sleep" (Hamas-affiliated Palinfo Twitter account, July 27, 2017).
On the morning of July 27, 2017, senior Muslim clerics held a press conference in east Jerusalem. They called on the Palestinian public to go to al-Aqsa mosque the following day (July 28, 2017) for the Friday prayers. They also called on the Palestinian public to gather in front of the gates to the Temple Mount compound before the prayer in the late afternoon, and to enter al-Aqsa mosque shouting of "Allahu akbar" (Facebook page of QudsN, July 27, 2017). However, there may still be last minute obstacles on the path to the renewed entrance of Muslims to the Temple Mount.
On the morning of July 27, 2017, senior Muslim clerics hold a press conference in east Jerusalem announcing the renewal of prayers on the Temple Mount. Sitting at the table are Sheikh Ikrima Sabri (center, wearing glasses), who delivers the sermons in al-Aqsa mosque and who has a long history of harsh anti-Israel incitement; to the right (black beard) is Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, waqf-appointed director of al-Aqsa mosque with ties to Jordan; to the left is Sheikh Abdel-Azeem Salhub, director-general of the Islamic waqf, in effect Jordan's senior representative on Temple Mount compound. Missing from the picture is Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem and the PA, who at the time was in a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah to update him on developments (Facebook page of QudsN, July 27, 2017).
The Palestinian Authority (PA) Supports the Decision of the Muslim Clerics
The PA joined religious leaders in authorizing prayer in al-Aqsa mosque. The Palestinian News Agency reported that Mahmoud Abbas, after having met in his office in Ramallah with the Palestinian leadership, decided to allow the noon prayer to be held inside al-Aqsa mosque, after an examination had shown the situation in the Temple Mount compound had returned to the status quo ante.
3. Mahmoud Abbas held a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in his office in Ramallah, also attended by Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem and the PA, who updated them on the situation of the Temple Mount compound. He told them that after waqf guards had examined the area, they found that Israel had in fact dismantled all security measures installed after July 14, 2017. Mahmoud Abbas praised the firm stance of the residents of Jerusalem against Israel. He added that the PA government's decisions regarding Jerusalem would be implemented (Wafa, July 27, 2017).
Left: The Palestinian leadership applauds Sheikh Muhammad Hussein. Right: Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, Mufti of Jerusalem and the PA updates Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership at a meeting in Ramallah (Facebook page of Mahmoud Abbas, July 27, 2017).
4. The initial reactions of the PA were the following:
a. Yusuf al-Mahmoud, spokesman for the Palestinian government, said the moment of entering the al-Aqsa compound was "a great, historic moment" in preparation for the liberation, and heralding the approaching removal of the [Israeli] occupation. He said the campaign for al-Aqsa mosque was a campaign for sovereignty in Jerusalem. He called on the Palestinians to close ranks to bring the Palestinian struggle to a [successful] end (Ma'an, July 27, 2017).
b. The Palestinian foreign ministry in Ramallahissued an announcement praising the Palestinian people and residents of Jerusalem for forcing Israel to remove the security measures recently installed on the Temple Mount compound. The announcement called on the Palestinian public to perpetuate the achievement and build on it in the future (Facebook page of Wafa, July 27, 2017).
5. Other reactions to recent developments were the following:
a. Fatah spokesman Usama al-Qawasmehcongratulated the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership headed by Mahmoud Abbas for their achievements in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa mosque. He said the merging of people at the official and popular level had played a role in the victory of the campaign for al-Aqsa mosque. The campaign had not yet ended, he said, and the great, real victory would be pushing the [Israeli] "occupation" out of the Palestinians' lands and holy places, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state (Fateh Media, July 27, 2017).
b. Nasr al-Qudwa, a member of Fatah's Executive Committee, congratulated the Palestinian people on their achievement, and said it deserved to be celebrated (Fateh Media, July 27, 2017).
c. Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, said the Palestinian people and the residents of Jerusalem had proved their loyalty to al-Aqsa mosque and the Muslim and Christian holy places. The events, he said, showed that the Palestinian people could achieve their rights in Jerusalem(Facebook page of QudsN, July 27, 2017).
"#Jerusalem was victorious" (Facebook page of QudsN, July 27, 2017).
The return of Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount may signal the end of the current phase of the Temple Mount crisis. However, in ITIC assessment, the way the crisis ended can be very problematic for Israel and may lead to further crises. That is because of the Palestinian sensation of "victory" and the perception that Israel folded under popular pressure (accompanied by terrorist attacks inspired by the crisis, the worst of which was the triple murder in Halamish). That may encourage different agencies which participated or meddled in the Temple Mount crisis to create difficulties and obstacles preventing the return to routine daily life. Such agencies include the Palestinian street in east Jerusalem, the PA and Hamas, all of which may try to create new crises around the Temple Mount and use them to promote their own interests.
6. In ITIC assessment, such efforts may take the following forms:
a. Terrorist attacks: the crisis caused by the shooting attack from the Temple Mount is liable to encourage copycat attacks(attacks on the Temple Mount similar to the one carried out by the Israeli Arabs from Umm al-Fahm, or other types of attacks). The lack of an effective security solution for entrance to the Temple Mount compound is also liable to encourage various types of copycats. Hamas and other agents of incitement, which regard the Temple Mount as a tool for leveraging their own interests, can be expected to continue inciting terrorist attacks to "protect" the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa mosque and the Temple Mount from Israel.
b. The political level:Mahmoud Abbas, the PA and Fatah will try to exploit the success of the campaign to exert pressure on Israel. That will be done through activity on the ground(the "popular resistance") and in the international arena(see below). At this stage it is unclear if Mahmoud Abbas will restore collaboration with Israel to the status quo before the crisis, even after the crisis is ended.
c. The popular level:Muslim clerics on the Temple Mount and the residents of Jerusalem may choose new political targetsafter the removal of security measures from the entrance to the Temple Mount. Their targets may go beyond tying Israel's hands on the Temple Mount. They may try to mobilize east Jerusalem residents to hold extensive protests (accompanied by mass prayers) over other ongoing issues in the conflict with Israel, especially sovereignty over east Jerusalem.
7. Friday, July 28, 2017is a possible date for a mass protest. Fatah called for a "day of rage" on July 28 before the recent developments, but so far no formal announcement has canceled or updated it. Hamas announced, also before the recent developments, a "day of rage" for the sake of al-Aqsa mosque, and can be expected to hold it.
According to the Palestinian media, Bab al-Hitta (the Gate of Remission), one of the gates to the Temple Mount, was not opened by the Israeli police. For that reason Muslims refuse to enter the Temple Mount compound, claiming they will continue to pray in the open space in front of the gates.