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Monday, 2 October, 2000, 22:04 GMT 23:04 UK
Israel apportions blame
demonstrators
Palestinian demonstrators in the thick of battle
Israeli commentators are divided on whether right-wing leader Ariel Sharon's visit to a contested shrine in Jerusalem last Thursday can be blamed for the continuing violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr Sharon's appearance at the site revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary sparked running battles which have left at least 40 people dead.

Yossi Sarid, member of the Knesset - the Israeli parliament - and chairman of the secular Meretz party, rebuked Mr Sharon for "amusing himself while igniting a blaze", but said the Palestinians were "wrong to pour fuel on his fire".

According to the Jerusalem Post, however, it is "inconceivable that the visit of anyone anywhere can provide an excuse for deadly violence".


Sharon lit matches at a barrel of explosives at the Temple Mount

Meretez Knesset whip Zahava Gal-On
The current unrest - the worst rioting since 1996 - "is effectively an act of will by the Palestinian leadership, for which Sharon's visit at most provided a convenient rallying cry", the paper said.

But Meretz Knesset whip Zahava Gal-On said the disturbances were a direct result of Mr Sharon's visit which, she said, "lit matches at a barrel of explosives at the Temple Mount".

'Scandal'

She called on Israeli Arab leaders to defuse tensions, but also demanded that Israeli security forces stop using rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse protesters.

Wounded man being carried away
Demonstrators carry away a wounded Palestinian
Haaretz newspaper had harsh words for Israeli Arab Knesset members, whom it accused of fanning the flames of violence.

Mr Sharon's motives were not innocent, it conceded, but it was not a visit to the Temple Mount by a Jew which was scandalous.

"The scandal comes in the form of the violent reaction taken by the leaders of the Palestinian public, chiefly the Arab Knesset members," the paper said.

"The parliamentary representatives of the Israeli Arabs placed themselves at the head of the acts of protest against Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, thus becoming partners in the horrendous outcome of the bloody battles which followed."


The Palestinian authority is clearly not interested in controlling the situation

Israel army commander Maj-Gen Yitzhak Eitan
The Jerusalem Post agrees. "Israeli Arab members of the Knesset are making a mistake by openly expressing understanding for violent rioting by Palestinians and by Israeli Arabs," it said.

"The Israeli Arab community cannot have it both ways: It cannot increasingly act with the Palestinian leadership against Israel and wage a successful battle for inclusion and respect within Israel."

Unrest 'orchestrated'

Yuli Tamir, minister for absorption, took a different tack. She called on Prime Minister Ehud Barak to appoint an Arab minister to any new government coalition which is formed.

"It's important to make peace within our own house as well," Mrs Tamir said.

wounded soldier in jeep
A wounded Israeli soldier is bundled into a jeep
But Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami saw it differently. He discerned "an orchestrated attempt to create unrest in the territories".

Mr Ben-Ami, who is also acting foreign minister, said it had to be made clear to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that "attempts to achieve short-term diplomatic gains by unrest are very dangerous to the diplomatic process and to peace and quiet in the territories".

Major-General Yitzhak Eitan, head of the Israel Defence Force Central Command, held the Palestinian leadership responsible for the violence.

"The Palestinian authority and their security officials initiated the incidents and are clearly not interested in controlling the situation, but are allowing it to deteriorate," he said.

"It is up to the Palestinian authority to prevent the violence continuing in the coming days."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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See also:

02 Oct 00 | Middle East
Mideast violence intensifies
02 Oct 00 | Middle East
In pictures: Fifth day of clashes
28 Sep 00 | Middle East
Ariel Sharon: Controversial hardliner
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