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18 Jul, 2017 11:57

Trump presidency makes Benjamin Netanyahu feel 'terribly empowered' against Palestinians

Trump presidency makes Benjamin Netanyahu feel 'terribly empowered' against Palestinians

Under the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, we see yet more restrictions, and for the first time the Friday prayer for Muslims was blocked in Haram al-Sharif, also known as Temple Mount, Ramzy Baroud, the editor of Palestine Chronicle.com told RT.

Muslim worshipers on Monday clashed with Israeli police outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Three people were injured. The Palestinians were turned away from their evening prayers, and hurled stones and other projectiles at the Israeli guards.

The violence comes after the Temple Mount, or the al-Ḥaram al-Sharif ('Noble Sanctuary') as referred to by Muslims, was closed on Friday for the first time after two Israeli police officers were killed by three Arab-Israeli attackers.

The assailants were shot and killed by police.

The reopening of Temple Mount has not relieved tensions as Palestinians protested additional Israeli security measures, including metal detectors, on site.

RT:  Police are said to be using rubber bullets, while protesters are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. How violent do you think these clashes will get?

Ramzy Baroud: I think we’re going to witness yet more violence in Jerusalem, but also across the Occupied Territories. Frankly, this has been predicted by many of us for months. Palestinians in Jerusalem in particular, but the rest of Palestine, have been living under extremely harsh conditions: constant closures, nightly raids, arrests and a lot of Israeli army and police violence.

Since the election of Donald Trump, [Benjamin] Netanyahu feels terribly empowered. He feels he can do anything he wants to the people of Jerusalem. We knew the pressure is going to reach the point where Palestinians will reach that breaking point. And they have. Now Al Aqsa is being closed – closure around Haram al-Sharif. Thousands of people are not allowed to reach their houses of worship. The Israeli government is using this as an opportunity to create yet more laws to restrict the movement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

RT:  After three Palestinians attacked and killed two Israeli soldiers at the entrance to Temple Mount, don't you think it's sensible for Israel to increase security measures?

RB: Yes, of course. If history starts from the moment that Israelis are killed, then yes, Israel has the right to do that. But the thing is: history doesn’t start there. On the day of the Palestinian attack, several Palestinians were killed, a Palestinian baby died in Gaza because the Israelis were not allowing him to cross the border. Palestinians die every single day. That attack in Al Aqsa, we don’t condone violence, but we try to understand it, and we try to put it within context. That attack was a result to many killings that have been taking place in the occupied territories. And the media has not been making a big fuss of it at all. As far as Palestinians are concerned, they are in a state of self-defense, they are not the aggressors.

RT:  Police ordered the cancellation of Friday prayers for the first time in years. How significant is that?

RB: It is very significant because it never happened before. Haram al-Sharif has been under the Muslim administration, known as Waqf. Waqf has been in control of Haram al-Sharif for 500 years. The call for prayer has been made from that mosque for that long and even more. In recent months the Israelis have been even restricting the call for prayer that has been taking place in that part of the world for millennia. Now we’re seeing yet more restrictions, and for the first time, the Friday prayer is not held in Haram al-Sharif.

Now, imagine a situation where people are really feeling pressured; they are feeling demonized; they are feeling a sense of despair, and they have no political horizon whatsoever. That single call for prayer was that unifying factor that kept Palestinians going. Now that call for prayer was not there. That moment of unity was not there. It is like the Israelis are asking yet for more Palestinian protests; it is the Israelis who want to see more violence there.

RT:  The US has backed Israel's temporary closure of Temple Mount. Do you think Washington's opinion will influence the situation on the ground?

RB: Yes, of course. It is extremely important. In the sense that after the passing UN Resolution 2334 with Obama refuse to veto the resolution, there has been a great deal of anger within certain parties in the US, but also in Israel. Since then Israel has taken so many measures to prove that it just simply doesn’t care; doesn’t care for international law; doesn’t care what the law says regarding the status of Jerusalem. Since Trump came to power, he has been giving Israel all of these signs that there are absolutely no boundaries anymore.

Nikki Haley, in particular, [US] Ambassador [to the UN], has made it very, very clear to Israel that Jerusalem is your land. This is not a contested area anymore; it is not an illegally occupied area anymore. So we have seen Netanyahu being particularly emboldened by the American initiatives. Seeing the Americans not saying anything regarding what is happening right now is yet another green light for Netanyahu and his right-wing government to do as they please against Palestinians in the occupied city.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.