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As unrest grows in Israel and Palestine, Netanyahu seeks scapegoats

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Reprinted from Middle East Eye

Israeli prime minister targets Palestinian leaders in Israel as his 'Mr Security' image takes a beating

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From flickr.com/photos/33865995@N02/15644290057/
(Image by The Jewish Agency for Israel)   Permission   Details   DMCA
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NAZARETH, Israel -- Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a crackdown on Palestinian political leaders in Israel, blaming them for the current unrest, in what appeared to be an attempt to bolster his severely dented image as "Mr Security."

After a lengthy meeting of the security cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu directed officials to assemble the evidence to make possible the outlawing of the northern wing of the Islamic movement.

Led by Sheikh Raed Salah, the organization is generally regarded as the most popular Islamic party among Israel's 1.6 million Palestinian citizens, who comprise a fifth of the population.

Over the past two decades the movement's standing among Palestinians has risen as it has taken an increasingly central role at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City. Salah has accused Israel of trying to engineer a takeover of the site.

After Netanyahu's announcement, he told reporters: "We are conducting exhaustive and meaningful discussions into the question of outlawing them. There is no question that we will take strong action."

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Separately, Netanyahu urged Israel's attorney general to indict Haneen Zoabi, a member of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset. She faces an investigation for incitement over an interview in which she reportedly called for Palestinians to converge on al-Aqsa to launch a "popular intifada."

Ban on Aqsa visits

Last week the prime minister barred Palestinian Knesset members from accessing the al-Aqsa compound, after facing massive criticism from the right for his decision to ban Jewish MKs from visiting the site. He had said the measure would help "restore calm."

Palestinian MKs have argued that Netanyahu has no authority to ban them from al-Aqsa, which under a long-standing agreement is managed jointly by Islamic religious authorities and Jordan.

Ahmed Tibi said treating alike the Palestinian MKs and settler leaders in the Knesset was "like saying a homeowner and the burglar who stole from him are the same."

The MKs have vowed to demand entry to al-Aqsa on Wednesday, in defiance of the ban.

The site is seen as holy by Palestinians and by Jews, who refer to it as Temple Mount. The ruins of two Jewish temples are believed to lie underneath the compound.

Tensions have been rising in recent years as increasing numbers of Jews have begun visiting the site, often at the expense of Muslim worshippers. Israel has imposed restrictions on prayer and access for Palestinians, with men under the age of 50 repeatedly denied access.

Restrictions at al-Aqsa and the scenes of mounting casualties in the occupied territories have triggered protests in all major Palestinian towns in Israel in recent days, often ending in clashes with the police. More than 100 demonstrators have been arrested, including many minors.

At the weekend police chief Aharon Aksol accused the northern Islamic Movement of being the "guiding hand" behind the clashes and recent attacks on Israeli Jews.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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