What lay behind the Palestinian attack on Isreal October 7th

Daoud Kuttab
4 min readOct 9, 2023

By Daoud Kuttab

Any observer of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would have noticed two issues that have been repeated ad nauseam to visitors, journalists, and anyone within sight. The first was political and it was focused on the fact that a foreign military occupation cannot last forever and that without a political horizon, the Palestinian public will explode. The second warning was religious, and it focused on the danger of slippery slopes toward a religious war. The warning pointed to serious attempts at Jewish supremacy that are reflected by continued and escalating Jewish religious nationalist extremists who were set on upsetting the sensitive status quo that has been in place especially in the old city of Jerusalem for centuries and the targeting of both Islamic and Christian symbols, leaders, and icons.
Political leaders including Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas have been repeatedly warning of the need for a political horizon, but the world has become deaf to these calls.
It is not that there was no effort to deal with either the political or religious. But it has been ten years since the last serious effort was exerted. At that time during the second Obama administration, Washington pressed Israel to suspend its settlement activities, release Palestinian (Fatah) prisoners held before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, and begin serious negotiations. But all the efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry went as he told Congress “Poof” when Israel reneged on its commitments refusing to release the last tranche of older Palestinian prisoners and failing to honor the settlement freeze.
On the religious side, John Kerry shepherded at nearly the same time a Jordanian-Israeli agreement regarding the protection of the status quo. The understanding reached in Amman by then Prime Minister Netanyahu, King Abdullah II, and John Kerry was focused on two reciprocal issues. The understanding was summarized thus: “Al-Aqsa is for Muslims to pray and for all others to visit.” In more detail, the understanding included an agreement by the Jordanian Islamic Waqf which manages the 142 dunum esplanade to allow all visitors (including Jews) to visit Al-Haram al-Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque, and in return the Israeli police were committed to ensuring that visitors especially Jewish visitors do not use this privilege to pray. The understanding also included an Israeli commitment to ensure small groups come during visiting hours and that known radical/fundamentalists be prevented from entry.
Negotiations that stopped in April 2014 have not restarted in any shape or form since then. The entry of visitors who would respect that the site is holy to Muslims became a farce, especially during Jewish holidays, and hundreds of largely repeat Jewish radicals were allowed entry and protection by the Israeli police and the ban on Jews praying slowly eroded as more and more Jewish religious visitors started reciting from their prayer books, chanting, and making various actions that reflected that they were not mere tourists but individuals who were trying to lay claim that this is a holy Jewish site which is a direct violation of the 2014 John Kerry sponsored understanding.
The Jordanian foreign ministry has been issuing dire warning after dire warning without anyone paying attention. Just three days before the launch of what Hamas has called the Al Aqsa Tsunami took the extraordinary step of sending a written memo to the Israeli embassy in Amman warning them of the results of the escalation against Palestinian worshipers. Jordan’s official news agency Petra said on October 4th, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said the memo of protest was sent to the Israeli Embassy in Amman against “incursions by hardliners, settlers and Knesset members into the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque under police protection.” The memo also protests “the restriction of access for worshipers to the Mosque, the desecration of Islamic graves, and the increasing attacks on Christians in Occupied Jerusalem.” The Jordanian spokesperson called on Israel to halt any actions that might undermine the sanctity of these holy places and to cease any attempts to change the historical and legal status of Jerusalem.
The spokesperson said that the 144-dunum Al Aqsa Mosque is solely an Islamic holy site and emphasized that Israel has no sovereignty over occupied East Jerusalem and cannot impose restrictions on access to the Al Aqsa Mosque/Al Haram Al Sharif. The last point was made after Israel barred Palestinian worshipers under the age of seventy from entering the mosque to leave the Muslim holy site available without any restrictions to the considerable number of religious Jews.
The last fifteen years have seen a massive increase in human costs mostly on the Palestinian side. According to a study by the Amman-based Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development( ARDD), the number of Palestinians killed between 2008–2034 has been a huge 6,407 compared to 308 Israelis, and among the injured Palestinian injuries was a whopping 152,560 versus 63,077 Israelis.
While at present one must wait until the battles are stopped, there is no doubt that we cannot return to business as usual. A political horizon must be made available and religious fanaticism must be held in check. Any deviation from these two issues will only perpetuate the conflict, death, and suffering that no one wants to continue.



Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian journalist, former Ferris Professor at Princeton U., established @AmmanNet. Contributor to http://t.co/8j1Yo83u2Z