Terminate Wakf authority over the Temple Mount

There’s no reason any of this should interfere with Muslim religious observance

January 26, 2015 20:37
3 minute read.
Jerusalem's Old City

Palestinians in front of the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Along with canceling a tax fund transfer, Israel is working on an appropriate set of responses to the Palestinian Authority joining the International Criminal Court and laying the foundation for war crimes charges against Israel. A thoroughly appropriate response would be revoking the PA’s Wakf authority over the Temple Mount.

The idea of allowing exclusive Muslim control over Judaism’s holiest site is, to say the least, problematic. PA President Mahmoud Abbas controls the grand muftiship of Jerusalem; the grand mufti controls the Wakf and the Wakf controls the Temple Mount. The idea of giving the PA authority over Israel’s most important national and historical treasure is ludicrous.

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Between 1948 and 1967, for the first time in Jewish history, Jews were denied any access to their Jerusalem holy sites.

In 1967, the Jordanian Wakf – complicit in Jordan’s Judenrein policy – was allowed to retain control over the Temple Mount.

This was an almost inconceivable act of good will; that good will has been betrayed over and over and over. The signing of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court should be the final straw.

Israel should say, “the PA is right, war crimes are very serious.

The PA’s grand mufti of Jerusalem has explicitly supported suicide bombings, and on the 47th anniversary of Fatah’s founding, delivered a speech which included an exhortation to kill Jews in the end times. So inasmuch as the Wakf endorses war crimes, its authority in Jerusalem is terminated.”

To begin with, Israel should stress that religious oversight of the Dome of the Rock and the Aksa mosque won’t be taken away from Muslims. It should transfer that authority to Israeli Muslims; the religious conduct of Israel’s thriving Muslim community shouldn’t be subordinated to the PA. The rest of the Mount should be repossessed by the Knesset, on behalf of the nation that built it, and delegated to a dedicated Temple Mount antiquities council. In addition to being Israel’s most important historical site, the Mount plays a central role in the history of Western civilization.

Expansion of the Aksa mosque has already done irreparable damage to Jerusalem’s historical record, by exhuming and destroying parts of the Mount’s interior. That must stop; archaeological preservation of the site must resume, along with archeological study of the Mount and the caves and caverns within.

There’s no reason any of this should interfere with Muslim religious observance. On Muslim holidays, Muslims could have exclusive access to the Mount. On Christmas and Easter, Christians could have exclusive access. On Jewish holidays, Jews would have exclusive access (including to the foundation stone of the Holy of Holies, the “rock” atop which the Dome of the Rock was built). For the rest of the year, Israel would make Judaism’s holiest site open to everyone. No discrimination against Muslims, merely an end to discrimination against everyone else.

There will, of course, be complications.

Though Jordan no longer controls the Wakf that controls the Mount, it will likely take extreme umbrage at Israel’s changing the status quo.

This could damage Israel’s diplomatic relation with the Hashemite Kingdom – though it’s possible Jordan’s reaction will be blunted by the proximity of Islamic State (IS), and a desire to keep Israel as a plausible defensive partner as IS expands.

And despite the undeniable reasonableness of this arrangement, it will almost certainly provoke a deafening international outcry. But of course, Israel has to do something in response to the PA’s signing the Rome Statute, and whatever that something is will provoke a deafening international outcry.

At least this way instead of a hollow PR victory, or more likely, a PR non-victory, something substantial will be accomplished.

Something substantial that Jews have been working towards for 2,000 years.

Next year in the heart of Jerusalem.

The author is a columnist for National Review Online; he has written about international relations for publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard.

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