On the eve of the Simhat Torah holiday, only a few people manned the protest tent outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem. That demonstration was launched by local-authority heads from the West Bank following the murder of the Henkin couple.
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Meanwhile, Malachi Levinger, head of the Kiryat Arba local council, was making last-minute arrangements for the holiday. Inside the tent I was told I had come at a bad time — the local-council heads were busy showering and beautifying themselves for the holiday.
Good time or not, the current wave of violence, whether it develops into an all-out clash or dwindles into sporadic terror attacks, spells the end of the settler movement as the right’s ideological and political trailblazer. The pioneers who once led the camp have been pushed aside in favor of the wisdom of the masses, who want an immediate and violent solution.
The wheeling-dealing of the right’s leaders in recent years has produced a new layer of opinion that scorns balanced consideration. The meteoric rise of people like Miri Regev and Oren Hazan reflects the unapologetic, new right. Protest tents belong to the ‘90s. Nowadays they want blood in the streets and “Death to the Arabs” in Zion Square.
In the right wing of 2015, the Temple Mount has taken the place of Judea, Samaria and Gaza as the reason for the struggle. The vast majority of the right realizes that the settlements aren’t going anywhere. Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank is well rooted. The slogan “build a new settlement” even puts settler leader Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever to sleep. What remains is a symbol of capitulation to the Arabs on the Temple Mount.
Our era of exaggeration empowers every incident day after day. The accumulation of stone throwing, the shouting, Islamic State flags on the Temple Mount and the sense that Jews are being humiliated without protection further inflames the atmosphere.
Netanyahu failed to recognize the change on the right. It’s doubtful whether he recognizes it even now. The policy of maintaining the status quo to which he has so firmly clutched is perceived on the right as capitulation.
Meanwhile, the police translate Netanyahu’s policy with a lack of sophistication: arrests of Jews who mumble, sway or make the slightest gesture on the Mount that could be construed as breaking the ban on praying there. The accumulative effect is producing discontent.
The latest round of violence was the first time since Netanyahu was elected that his standing on the right has been fractured. He survived the settlement freeze, attacks by terrorists running people over with their cars, and last year’s Gaza war, but his great success in the March election whetted his voters’ appetite.
In the U.S. Republican Party, the voters don’t understand why the congressional majority doesn’t throw all of Obama’s initiatives into the bin. Similarly, the Israeli right doesn’t understand why despite the great victory Netanyahu doesn’t curb the powers of the High Court of Justice, stymie funding for anti-occupation groups B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, release the restraints on Israeli army snipers and expel the “leaders of the terrorists” to Jordan and Syria.
The rightists are beginning to realize that Netanyahu isn’t willing to enact the comprehensive reforms they want; rather, he opts for self-adulation about the determination and calmness with which he’s handling the situation.
My Israel, the Facebook page previously run by Naftali Bennett and Ayalet Shaked, has produced a video against Netanyahu. This is the first harbinger. Any more terror attacks and even his buddy interior designer Moshik Galamin won’t save him.
If the region reaches a boiling point, this time the right’s frustration will lead to counterviolence. Both the first and second intifadas were accompanied by Jewish violence, including killings.
The gaping rift between right and left, increasing violence unlinked to the conflict, the incitement on social media, the sense of emergency that the Arabs are coming with machetes and atomic bombs to exterminate us — all this will pull more groups into the circle of violence.
A careful assessment would liken the third intifada to a popular clash between ethnic groups. A Jew can’t walk in an Arab area and an Arab can’t walk in a Jewish area. The walls between the societies will grow higher. To try to “understand the other” will be compared to treason. It’s doubtful whether Netanyahu is capable of doing anything to change this mood.