Israel began removing metal detectors from entrances to a major Jerusalem shrine early Tuesday morning to defuse a crisis over the site that angered the Muslim world and triggered some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian clashes in years.
JERUSALEM — Since the creation of the Jewish state seven decades ago, disputes between Israelis and Palestinians seem to begin and end with physical force and violence.
Yet a recent confrontation over Israel’s security checkpoints at a Muslim holy site in East Jerusalem came to a resolution following a largely peaceful protest by thousands of Palestinians — and that outcome has not been lost to them.
It was “the beauty of non-violence,” proclaimed Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the moderate Palestinian National Initiative party. The Israelis “wanted to provoke us, they wanted to create a clash, but now they know we are non-violent, we are organized and we’re keeping the initiative in our hands, not in their hands.”
The daily protests were not free of violence. In fact, several hundred Palestinians regularly threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security personnel. But they were a minority compared to thousands of Palestinians who protested against the metal detectors that Israel installed around the al-Aqsa mosque through peaceful prayers in the streets.
The confrontation began July 14, when three Israeli-Arab gunmen killed two Israeli police officers standing guard outside the revered plateau that Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims refer to as the Noble Sanctuary.
The esplanade that contains the al-Aqsa mosque — the third holiest site in Islam, and the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven — is the same place where the ancient temples of Jerusalem stood before their destruction.
In response to the shooting of the police officers, the Israeli government installed metal detectors and infrastructure for security cameras at each entrance to the esplanade. Although many Israelis considered the security devices unobtrusive, Palestinians objected to them as encroachment in an area they consider their sovereign territory.
For 10 days, tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers refused to pass through the metal…