The so-called “status quo” on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been violated repeatedly in recent years by radical Palestinian and Islamic actors, turning the Mount into a base of hostile operations against Israel instead of protecting it as zone of prayer and peace.
Wakf and Islamic Movement provocateurs have attacked Jewish visitors to the Mount and Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below; have greatly restricted visitation rights for all non-Muslims; have hijacked the pulpit in the mosque on the Mount to preach hatred and violence against Israel; have purveyed a canard about the Aksa Mosque being under attack from Israel in order to rile the Palestinian public and broader Islamic world; and have conducted vast and illegal construction projects on the Mount and beneath it, willfully destroying centuries of Jewish archeological treasures.
Last week, Palestinian terrorists smuggled machine guns onto the Temple Mount and attacked police guarding the gates, killing two Israeli officers. The terrorists launched their attack from within the Temple Mount and then fled into the shrines on the Mount.
While Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terrorist attack, he continues to roil the waters and foment violence against Israel by repeating the canard that “al-Aksa is in danger.”
Now he is choreographing resistance to the security measures put in place by Israel. His Fatah political party has called for “rage” in the streets of Jerusalem. Abbas must therefore assume grave responsibility for the clashes that have taken place in recent days between police and overheated Palestinian protesters.
In fact, Abbas has stoked a broad-scale campaign against the authenticity of Israel’s historic rights in Jerusalem.
In September 2015, he screeched about “filthy” Jewish feet that were “desecrating” Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
“Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” he bellowed. “They [the Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”
Abbas then fulminated about (false) Jewish threats to the mosques on the Mount, and praised the mourabitoun (Islamic gangs posted on the Mount to accost non-Muslim visitors). “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every shahid [martyr] will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will.”
Abbas’s religious affairs minister, Mahmoud al-Habbash, and Mufti Muhammad Hussein have picked up the thread. They constantly propagate lies about Israeli “plans” to undermine and destroy the Muslim shrines on the Mount.
The former chief justice of the PA’s Religious Court, Sheikh Tayseer al-Tamimi, has declared that the PA’s Islamic belief and political position is that Jews should not only be prohibited from praying on the Temple Mount, but at the Western Wall, too, since it is part of the “blessed al-Aksa Mosque” and not part of any “alleged” ancient Jewish temple.
Such inflammatory, irresponsible talk fuels and legitimizes Arab violence. Abbas’s PA has become an extremist, not moderate, actor in this regard.
It should be noted that Abbas has revved up tensions around the Temple Mount in each of the past five Septembers, in advance of his appearances at the UN General Assembly.
It’s a cynical and desperate ploy aimed at gaining global attention. His ambassadors have repeatedly brought resolutions to international forums such as UNESCO that deny Jewish history and rights in Jerusalem and Hebron.
Simultaneously, Abbas has presided over a massive increase in spending on salaries to terrorist prisoners and payments to families of terrorist “martyrs.” According to Palestinian Media Watch, these payments have risen by 13% and 4%, respectively, in 2017, amounting to NIS 1.2 billion this year alone.
In short, Abbas continues to play a dangerous double game whereby he both poses as a defender of Islam by attacking Jewish history and fuels terrorism while also purporting to be (and occasionally serving as) Israel’s security partner.
BUT I PLACE the ultimate responsibility, and blame, for the deteriorating situation on and around the Temple Mount on the Israeli government.
Repeatedly, Jerusalem prefers to merely “quiet” things down and “restore calm.” It chooses to maintain a situation whereby Muslims exercise exclusive religious and national rights on the Mount and have rigged the site as an armed camp, while Jews have only limited (and increasingly impossible) visitation rights and are altogether forbidden from praying there.
For fear of the Arab and international response, the Netanyahu government is hesitant to attempt to truly change the situation.
This is no longer acceptable. Israel cannot redress the situation by merely attempting to “contain” things. Just beefing up security by plunking metal detectors at the gates of the Mount won’t do the trick. Israel should not swallow the Islamic violence that has become the new status quo. Most of all, Israel cannot accept the slanders at the heart of the Palestinian-Islamic narrative regarding the Mount and regarding the Jewish presence in Zion.
It is time to recognize that the “status quo” on the Temple Mount is dead. It was killed by the mourabitoun; by the calumnies of PA-appointed Wakf imams, whose sermons on the Mount daily deny a Jewish connection not only to the Temple Mount, but to any part of the Land of Israel; by terrorists who may have been aided and abetted by the Wakf; and by Abbas’s diplomatic assaults on Jewish history and legitimacy in Jerusalem.
It is time to level the playing field. In the context of attempts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, Israel should put on the table a plan to bring equity and fairness to administration of the Temple Mount, a plan to bring about a true sharing of sovereignty over the place most holy to the Jewish people.
This will require Palestinian recognition of the Jewish people’s ancient ties to the holy site and to the holy land, and the facilitation of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. It can be effected either through a time-sharing prayer arrangement similar to that in place at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, or through a synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the vast plaza that won’t overshadow the two large Muslim structures on the Mount.
It will also entail the end of unilateral and destructive Wakf excavation/construction on the Temple Mount. And of course, it will entail rigorous demilitarizing of the Temple Mount via airtight Israeli security control.
These positions are no more “radical” or “explosive” than irascible Palestinian demands for a massive release of terrorists from Israeli jails or the unrealistic Palestinian demand for a withdrawal to stale armistice borders of 70 years ago. They are legitimate, levelheaded and judicious Israeli positions.
They constitute a reasonable and moderate Israeli negotiating stance and should become part of Israel’s diplomatic oeuvre.
The new position will engender Palestinian (and some Western) resistance, but with both resoluteness and sensitivity (including coordination with Jordan), Israel can succeed and overcome the opposition.
Jerusalem is a consensus issue in Israeli politics. The Netanyahu government would enjoy widespread public backing for action to parry Palestinian and Islamic incitement in the city, and to solidify Israel’s rights on the Temple Mount. Only a forward-looking and affirmative Israeli stance can create a new situation with a just compromise on the Temple Mount.www.davidmweinberg.com