Umm al-Fahm First

Mass celebrations in that Israeli Arab city accompanied the funerals of the three Temple Mount gunmen. Extremists there must be reined in before the country's fabric is damaged further

Moshe Arens
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Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, celebrating with supporters in Umm al-Fahm, after he was released from prison on January 17, 2017.
Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, celebrating with supporters in Umm al-Fahm, after he was released from prison on January 17, 2017. Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP
Moshe Arens

The time has come to take stock of the tumultuous events these past two weeks that began with the killing of two Israeli policemen at the Temple Mount by three members of the Jabarin clan from Umm al-Fahm. Then came the installation of electronic security measures at the entrances to the Temple Mount, the mass protests led by the mufti of Jerusalem, and this technology’s subsequent removal. A confusing additional event was the attack on the Israeli security guard at the Israeli Embassy in Amman that got the Jordanian monarch into the affair.

By now Muslim worshippers have returned to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Israeli Embassy staff has returned home from Ammam. There may yet be more demonstrations and riots, and further contacts between Jerusalem and Amman before tempers subside on all sides, for the time being at least.

Muslims who celebrated their “victory” over Israel will in time learn that it was no more than a hollow victory. In due time all the necessary security measures will be taken at the entrances to the Temple Mount for the protection of everyone who visits this holy site.

Unfortunately, engraved in the memory of many will remain not only the criminal act by three Israeli Arabs from Umm al-Fahm, but even more disturbing, the mass celebrations there that accompanied their funerals. The gunmen evidently had the support of many in Umm al-Fahm, and others seem prepared to follow in their footsteps. Those who wanted to believe that it was the act of a few crazed individuals are sorely disappointed. The assailants killed two policemen and damaged the fabric of relationships between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens that will take a long time to repair.

This is why examining closely the situation in Umm al-Fahm and the developments that led to this killing has now become the first priority for Israel’s security services, the police and the government itself. Was it really inevitable?

The Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm.
The Israeli-Arab city of Umm al-Fahm.Credit: Reuters

Why was Ra’ad Salah, at the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, allowed to preach hatred for Israel and spread the lie that the Al-Aqsa Mosque was in danger for all those years? Why did it take years before the movement was declared illegal, and why was Salah allowed to continue his pernicious activities after that? Why did the security services object to declaring his movement illegal, a movement whose aim was the destruction of the State of Israel? These questions require answers.

And another question: Why was the threshold in Israeli general elections raised so as to force all Arab parties to unite, thus giving the most extreme elements the dominant voice among Arab Knesset members?

The spotlight will have to be put on Umm al-Fahm, this large Arab city in Israel. Adopting Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s idea and turning the city over to the Palestinian Authority is absurd. Its Israeli citizens cannot be divested of their Israeli citizenship. But the extremists in that city need to be identified and reined in before further damage is caused.

We’ve learned that in the Arab world the extremists dominate the public discourse, leaving the moderate elements mute. Possibly this is the case in Umm al-Fahm as well. Although many there, no doubt, condemn the criminal act perpetrated on the Temple Mount, not one has as yet spoken out. They seem to be scared into silence.

And yet, repairing the damage done to the relationships between Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens isn’t going to be easy if courageous leaders among Israel’s Arab community don’t stand up to be counted. All Israelis – Jews and Arabs – are waiting.