The coalition government of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appeared weakened on Sunday evening after a fresh wave of violence that left more than 20 injured on and around the mosque esplanade in Jerusalem.
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Early Sunday, “hundreds” of Palestinian protesters began piling “stones” in the square just before religious Jews arrived at what is considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest site in Islam, Israeli police said.
Israeli security forces intervened on the Esplanade in East Jerusalem’s Old City, a Palestinian sector occupied by Israel since 1967, prompting clashes but also criticism from the Muslim world.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 19 Palestinians wounded, some hit by rubber bullets, two days after clashes left more than 150 injured.
But late Sunday evening, the Arab-Israeli Raam Party “suspended” its support for Prime Minister Bennett’s coalition, which last June rallied parties from the right, left, center and, for the first time in Israel’s history, an Arab education to oust Benjamin Netanyahu from power.
“If the government continues its arbitrary measures” on the mosque esplanade, “we will submit a collective resignation,” the party threatened. Raam has four MPs in the coalition, which currently has 60, one short of the majority threshold.
This freeze on Raam’s participation in the coalition has no short-term implications for Mr Bennett’s government, with the work of the Knesset suspended until May 5, but further weakens the government, which had already lost its majority earlier in the month Departure of a right-wing representative.
Until parliamentary work resumes, the prime minister will try to calm the situation and stabilize his coalition, political sources in Jerusalem told the AFP news agency.
For its part, the Likud party of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again demanded on Sunday evening that the right-wing MPs leave the coalition and form a “right-wing government” that also brings together the orthodox Jewish and far-right parties.
“When Jews can no longer safely go to Jerusalem for Passover (Jewish Passover, ed.) … there are right-wing MPs in the coalition who understand that this government has come to the end of its course,” the Likud als said Israeli buses were stoned by Palestinians near the Western Wall on Sunday.
Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem reported seven minor injuries from the stone throwing, while Israel Police said they made 18 arrests.
“Al-Aqsa (Arabic name for the esplanade of mosques, ed.) belongs to us, and the Jews have absolutely no right to it,” said Ismaïl Haniyeh, head of the political wing of Hamas, a Palestinian armed Islamist movement that controls it Gaza Strip, an area under Israeli blockade.
Since the 1967 conquest and subsequent Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem, unrecognized by the international community, Jews have been permitted to enter the esplanade at certain times, but not to pray there. The prayer usually takes place at the bottom of the Western Wall, although religious Jews have prayed in secret on the esplanade for years.
Jordan, which administers the Esplanade of Mosques, blamed Israel for this new escalation of violence on Sunday, with King Abdullah II urging the Jewish state to “end the illegal and provocative measures leading to a major major escalation.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone Sunday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a political rival of Hamas’ Islamists, to congratulate him on his “calm” and “good judgment” on the matter, he said on his Twitter account.
“Turkey has always been on the side of Palestine,” added Mr Erdogan, who, according to a statement from the Palestinian Presidency, told Mahmoud Abbas that he “will establish contacts with the parties concerned to put an end to the Israeli escalation”.
During the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing at Easter at the Vatican, Pope Francis asked for “free” access to the holy sites in Jerusalem on Sunday: “May Israelis, Palestinians and all residents of the Holy City come with pilgrims to experience the beauty of peace “.