AMMAN: Palestinians celebrated at the Damascus Gate pavilion on Sunday night after forcing Israeli security authorities to remove metal barricades that were preventing Ramadan festivities outside the main entrance to the old city of Jerusalem.
Ofer Zalzberg, Middle East program director at Herbert Kelman Institute for Conflict Transformation, told Arab News that Israel removed the fences after recognizing that its limitation was fostering “an expansion of Palestinian protests across Jerusalem and the West Bank, nourishing Arab-Jewish altercations across Israel and prompting Hamas missiles attacks from Gaza.”
Israeli decision-makers hope this move will restore calm, Zalzberg said, adding: “However, they realize it might not because Palestinian protests have become entangled with other dynamics, including President Mahmoud Abbas’ unpopular intention to postpone elections and the desire of some in Hamas to publicly repudiate it.”
But some Palestinian analysts do not see a link between the protests and the elections.
Former Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib told Arab News that: “The Jerusalem protests were connected to restrictions at Damascus Gate while elections are connected to a number of other issues, including Israeli restrictions on voting for Jerusalemites, the arrest by Israel of a number of Hamas candidates, and the internal Palestinian dynamic.”
Johnny Mansour, a historian and lecturer from Haifa, told Arab News that Israel “is totally engulfed in the post-election coalition discussions and will not make any decision quickly.”
Mansour said that the one decision that Israel will easily make is to ensure that Hamas does not get a foothold in the West Bank.
“The victory over the metal barriers will be short-lived and the conflict will quickly return to square one regardless of what happened in the old city of Jerusalem.”
Bir Zeit University political professor Ali Jarbawi believes that the participation of Jerusalem’s Palestinians in the upcoming elections was decided after the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem.
He said that it had become an issue of sovereignty for the Israelis, and that they will not give up on it easily.
While the current tensions might slowly rescind, another dramatic date is looming.
With the last 10 days of Ramadan still to go, a greater number of Palestinian Muslims will come to the city.
Everyone is bracing for Lailat Al-Qadir (the night of destiny), which lands this year on May 10 — the same day that Israelis celebrate Jerusalem Day, which commemorates Israeli control over the Old City following June 67 War.