'Jerusalem Violence Is a Message to the U.S.'

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Friday, 11.30 a.m., EST

What's behind this week's upsurge of violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere on the West Bank?

"It's a way for Arafat to send a message to the Americans that Al Aksa [the mosque atop Jerusalem's Temple Mount] is a very red line, and the Palestinians should not be pushed. It's a demonstration that people are prepared to die for Al Aksa. The violence will last a few weeks, and will probably force the Israelis to halt negotiations.

"I don't think [Israeli opposition leader Ariel] Sharon was expecting that this upsurge would be sparked by his visit to the Temple Mount, which was designed to put pressure on Ehud Barak against compromises on Jerusalem. But it gave the Palestinians an opportunity to stake their own claim."

How will the outbreak affect efforts to revive the Camp David negotiations?

"The Israelis usually stop negotiations during outbreaks of violence, and Barak needs to cover his own back at home after two Israeli soldiers were killed earlier in the week and now there are clashes all over. Violent clashes and then a halt to negotiations is a way of calling in the American fire brigade. The U.S. will step in and urge Arafat to calm things down, but Arafat will reply that it's not under his control because Jerusalem is such a passionate issue for Palestinians. He'll say 'I told you that Jerusalem is a very sensitive, very holy place for us, and you didn't believe me. Now you see that people are willing to die for Jerusalem.' "

So the outlook is bleak for a breakthrough in talks on Jerusalem?

"Today at Al Aksa, Palestinians started throwing stones at Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall, and the clashes began when the police moved in to stop them. It was an outbreak of violence based purely on the religious passions on both sides over Jerusalem, and this is the real fire. Many Palestinians believe that if they die for the sake of Jerusalem they will be going to heaven, so they can't easily be stopped.

"The conflict over Jerusalem can't really be resolved, it can only be managed. Any idea that there's going to be a resolution of this issue before Clinton leaves office is simply an illusion."