EIPA interviews Jerusalem-based Italian correspondent Maurizio Molinari on current events in Israel

Maurizio Molinari, correspondent of Italian daily newspaper La Stampa in JerusalemMaurizio Molinari, correspondent of Italian daily newspaper La Stampa in Jerusalem

“What is happening is ‘a kind of local version of the radical Islam that is dominating the stage in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa”

“Radical Islam it’s a new enemy, in the Middle East as in Europe, and different countries have to adapt themselves to the new threat. Israel isn’t an exception”

By Yossi Lempkowicz

“Those who are supporting Palestinian violences are organizations – Hamas in Gaza, the Islamic movement in Israel – whose identity is based on radical Islam,” says Maurizio Molinari, Jerusalem-based Middle East correspondent for Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, as the spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis and clashes with the security forces continue.

At least three police officers were injured in a terror attack in Jerusalem Saturday afternoon by a Palestinian terrorist, the second such attack in the day.

One officer was seriously injured and the other two were moderately wounded in the attack near Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. The terrorist was shot dead by nearby security forces.

Earlier in the day, a Palestinian teenager stabbed two ultra-Orthodox men in central Jerusalem. One of the victims was moderately injured while other other sustained light wounds.

For Molinari, what is happening “is a kind of local version of the radical Islam that is dominating the stage in many countries in Middle East and North Africa”.

In an interview with Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA), he declares : “The violences are spreading out and their main factor is the defense of Al Aqsa mosque. It’s a topic that brings together Palestinians living in the West Bank, Arab-Israelis and the larger Sunni community in the Middle East. What we are facing is the possibility to have a new kind of Intifada, no more based on nationalistic requests but on a radical religious belief. That’s why Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is working with the Israeli government to put an end to the unrest.”

According to him, “the main motivation is the defense of Al Aqsa. The protesters believe that the mosque located in the Haram el-Sharif – known by the Jews as the Temple Mount – is in danger because of Israeli aggression.” ” What the Israeli government does and say to deny it has very little effect on them. The more the Arab leader speak about Al Aqsa, the more the protesters feel themselves entitled to fight for it. No matter what”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly stresses that, contrary to lies that are spread, Israel has no intention to change the status quo on the Temple Mount which places the site under Islamic religious authority, tightly restricts non-Muslim access (Israeli Jews and tourists are allowed to visit the site at fixed times but do not enter the al-Aqsa mosque) and doesn’t permit Jews and other non-Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount.

Asked if he thinks that this violence is an organized uprising like the first and second Intifada, Molinari replies : “Those who consider it a third Intifada are pointing out to its speed: how fast the violences are spreading. Those that don’t agree with that reply that there isn’t an organized movement, as is was in the previous two Intifada. My experience is that history never returns in the same way. The violence is widespread but the religious element this time is dominant. We speak about hundreds of young people that go down the street to clash with the police because they want to fight to defend Islam.”

He believes that the choice of the Israeli government to avoid a large military operation is “correct.”

“Until now the reaction has been based on enforcing the police corps, more intelligence on the Islamic groups, and security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, as it happened in Nablus where it was thanks to the Palestinian security forces that Israel arrested a Hamas cell responsible for the killing of a couple of Israelis in front of their four children.”

“It’s the only possible strategy. But nobody can say if it will work. Radical Islam it’s a new enemy, in Middle East as in Europe, and different countries have to adapt themselves to the new threat. Israel isn’t an exception.”

How to stop the escalation and bring the parties to the table  ? Is this possible ?  If yes how ?

“The Obama Administration has been very much active in the last week to push Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas to cooperate. And we’re beginning just now to see some results. President Abbas strong statements against the riots, Prime Minister Netanyahu order to the police to stop any politician to visit the Temple Mount. The EU should help this US efforts and, mostly, should avoid any step on other issues related to the Arab-Israeli conflict that could rise the tension”.

Before being appointed as La Stampa’s correspondent in Jerusalem, Maurizio Molinari worked as the newspaper’s correspondent in New York, Brussels and as a diplomatic correspondent in Rome. He is a regular guest commentator on foreign policy on several Italian and international news channels.