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National security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Israeli officials have argued behind the scenes that the Biden administration shouldn't intervene over the recent escalation in violence between security forces and Palestinians at a holy site in Jerusalem, according to Israeli officials.

Why it matters: This is the first major crisis between Israel and the Palestinians that the Biden administration has had to deal with. Despite their resistance to any U.S. role in the crisis, the Israelis took the steps requested by the U.S. to de-escalate the situation.

  • After four years of close to no criticism by the Trump administration for its actions in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the Israeli government is now faced with a U.S. government that is much more critical.
  • At least 215 Palestinians were injured during clashes with Israeli police on Monday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, including 153 who were hospitalized, according to AP.

The big picture: President Biden has thus far viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a very low priority in comparison to other foreign policy issues.

  • The White House was not interested in spending much political capital or time on the issue, and was seeking to avoid a fight with Israel over the Palestinian conflict.
  • But the Jerusalem crisis that erupted over the weekend prompted many members of Congress and progressive organizations to weigh in and demand that the White House intervene.

Driving the news: The Biden administration has been monitoring the escalation in Jerusalem in recent days and raised its concerns with Israel both privately and publicly.

  • The issue was mainly being dealt with by the State Department, but the White House weighed in on Sunday when national security adviser Jake Sullivan called his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat.
  • The White House said Sullivan raised concerns about tensions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, where 300 Palestinians are under threat of eviction from their homes.
  • Sullivan also "encouraged the Israeli government to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations" being held on Monday, according to a White House summary of the call.

The other side: The language used in the White House summary was quite mild and moderate, but the Israelis responded with their own version of the call that gave an impression the conversation was much more difficult.

  • Israeli officials said Ben Shabbat told Sullivan during the phone call that Israel believes the Biden administration and the rest of the international community should stay out of the crisis in Jerusalem and avoid pressing Israel.
  • Ben Shabbat told Sullivan that “international intervention is a reward to the Palestinian rioters and those who back them who were seeking international pressure on Israel," according to an Israeli official briefed on the call.

The Israeli official said Ben Shabbat told Sullivan that Israel is handling events in Jerusalem "from a position of sovereignty and responsibility regardless of Palestinian provocations."

  • The Israeli national security adviser told his U.S. counterpart that if the U.S. and the international community want to help in restoring calm, they should put pressure on the inciting elements on the Palestinian side, the Israeli official said.
  • The White House said Sullivan assured Ben-Shabbat that the U.S. will remain fully engaged in the days ahead to promote calm in Jerusalem.

The latest: In the hours since the call took place, the Israeli government took the steps the Biden administration requested.

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the closure of the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors and later ordered the re-routing of an annual parade so that it would not pass through the Muslim Quarter and the Damascus Gate, two potential flashpoints in the old City of Jerusalem.

What’s next: The United Nations Security Council is meeting for a closed session later on Monday to get updates about the Jerusalem escalation.

Go deeper

Updated May 10, 2021 - World

U.S. and UN express concern at Jerusalem violence ahead of nationalist march

Palestinian protesters run from Israeli security forces in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel's takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations on Sunday called on Israel to show "maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly" and national security adviser Jake Sullivan expressed "serious concerns" about violence in Jerusalem.

Driving the news: Over 250 Palestinians and several Israeli police officers have been wounded since Friday during protests over planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the city's east — which Sullivan also expressed concern about, per a White House statement.

May 9, 2021 - World

In photos: Israeli police and Palestinian protesters clash in Jerusalem

Palestinians escape from a stun grenade fired by Israeli police officers during at Damascus Gate during the fasting month of Ramadan in Jerusalem's Old City on May 8. "Tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers" were praying at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque during the clashes on Islam’s holy night of Laylat al-Qadr, Reuters reports. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters erupted for a second night in Jerusalem Saturday.

The big picture: Tensions have escalated on the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem over the threatened eviction of Palestinians from their homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers. At least 80 Palestinians and one Israeli police officer were wounded in the latest clashes, per Reuters. Over 170 Palestinians were injured Friday.

May 10, 2021 - Podcasts

Sen. Bernie Sanders on what's next for Democrats

Sen. Bernie Sanders is getting impatient with the White House. That's one of the big takeaways from his conversation with Jonathan Swan for "Axios on HBO."

  • Plus, personalizing public education.
  • And, a crisis unfolding in Jerusalem.

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