EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini cancels trip to Jerusalem
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EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini cancels trip to Jerusalem

While Israel is hit by an unprecedented wave of terror attacks, representatives of the Mideast Quartet have cancelled a planned visit to the conflict area. The Quartet is made up of United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nation.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote on Tuesday that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had spoken with EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Federica Mogherini, who is leading the Quartet’s initiative. He asked her to postpone the delegation’s visit this week. Jerusalem considers the visit “pointless” in the current situation.

The Quartet had planned to visit both Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss the current unrest and the need for confidence-building measures.  In recent days a wave of a terror attacks, mostly in the form of stabbings, have hit Israel.  The attacks are not limited to the occupied territories but have spread to Israeli towns and have involved Israeli-Arab citizens as perpetrators.

In his speech yesterday at the opening of the Israeli parliament’s winter session, Netanyahu claimed that terror is not a consequence of frustration at the lack of progress in the peace process but from a desire to destroy Israel. He promised to defeat the terror wave but was short on any new ideas on how to calm down the situation.

Israeli experts differ on whether the current unrest is the start of a third intifada. Until now the attacks have been random and committed by perpetrators not belonging to any organization. Tuesday was the worst day until now with terror attacks in Jerusalem and Raanana, a town in the center of Israel.

What seems to be sure is that the unrest has been fueled by incitement by both sides around the Temple Mount, or the Holy Sanctuary, in Jerusalem. Israeli government ministers have made provocative visits to the Temple Mount. And Palestinian authorities and Israeli-Arab political parties are spreading unfounded rumors that the Al Aqsa mosque at the Holy Sanctuary is threatened.

In his speech Netanyahu said “We are committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and defend the holy places of all religions in Jerusalem.”

The status quo means that the Temple Mount/Holy Sanctuary with its two mosques is managed by a Muslim religious foundation, as has been the case since the six-day war in 1967. Limited visits by non-Muslims are allowed but they are not allowed to pray there.

A spokesperson for the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs told The Brussels Times that the government is not considering a total ban on visits by non-Muslims to the Temple Mount. A planned visit on Wednesday by Israeli-Arab Knesset members – itself a provocative act in the current situation – has obviously been cancelled.

The Brussels Times