Jews visiting Temple Mount is not assault on al-Aqsa - analysis

Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Hamas and Ra'am, are trying to whip the Arab street into a frenzy over settlers supposedly "storming al-Aqsa."

Jews ascend to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during Tisha Be'av, July 18, 2021. (photo credit: HOZRIM LAHAR NGO)
Jews ascend to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during Tisha Be'av, July 18, 2021.
(photo credit: HOZRIM LAHAR NGO)
The record needs to be set straight: A few hundred Jews ascending the Temple Mount on Tisha Be’av, the day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples that stood on that mount, does not constitute “settlers storming al-Aqsa.”
It constitutes Jews wanting to visit their holiest site on the fast day dedicated to remembering the Temples that once stood there, and their destruction.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett acted judiciously in allowing Jews to ascend the site Sunday, despite early violence there in an obvious attempt by some Arabs to prevent the Jews from doing so.
After meeting with Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev and police chief Kobi Shabtai, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that Bennett’s directives were that “the organized and safe visits by Jews to the Temple Mount [should] continue, while maintaining order at the site.”
Had he decided otherwise, had he barred Jews from the site, it would have sent the message that just as violence prevented Israel from celebrating Jerusalem Day in May as it has been celebrated for years, the scent of violence would prevent it from commemorating Tisha Be’av as it sees fit, as well. And that is not a message Israel can afford to send, because then there will be no end – Jerusalem cannot allow the threat of violence to determine its policies.
A reasonable debate can be had regarding whether Israel should adopt a policy of permitting Jews to visit and even pray on the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site, and the third holiest site of Islam – but once the government determines this is permitted, then the threat of violence should not deter it from carrying out the policy it deems correct.
Israel also has the right to expect that 1,700 Jews going to the Temple Mount not be falsely framed as an assault on al-Aqsa. Because when framed in this manner, it ignites passion and invites violence. Those who do frame it in this manner want to do just that.
And look who is doing just that.
Hamas, for starters. As Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said, “This behavior is a provocation to the sentiments of the Arabs and Muslims around the world and disrespect to all international calls condemning these incursions.”
Iran wants to as well.
“Hundreds of Zionist settlers storm al-Aqsa Mosque,” read the headline to a story by Iran’s International Quran News Agency.
Or consider this from the Kuwait news agency, Kuna: “Twenty-three groups of Jewish extremists (around 1,200 settlers) stormed the Aqsa mosque on Sunday, Omar Al-Siswani, director of al-Aqsa Mosque said.
“Desecration of the mosque comes after calls from Palestinian national and Islamic forces upon activists to be present in al-Aqsa mosque in response to Israelis’ calls to storm it for marking the so-called ‘memorial of the destruction of the Temple.’”
The Palestinian Authority had this to say:
“The Palestinian Presidency... considers this a grave threat to security and stability, and a provocation to the feelings of Palestinians, and holds the Israeli government responsible for this escalation.”
And Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has consistently tried to whip the Muslim world into a frenzy over alleged Israeli designs to attack the mosque, but who last week signaled he wanted to improve ties with Israel, simply could not resist temptation.
“We condemn Israeli forces violating the sanctity of the Haram al-Sharif once again by allowing racist Jewish groups to raid al-Aqsa Mosque, intercepting worshiping Palestinian civilians with stun grenades and the detention of some Palestinian civilians, including children and women, with images showing human dignity offended,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
All this, keep in mind, because some Jews dared go to the Temple Mount on the fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temples there.
While a few Jews who go up to the Temple Mount might be looking for a provocation, not all Jews who go there are looking to provoke – and it is the job of the security services to be able to screen out the “bad apples” and prevent them from causing a disturbance. But to say that any Jew going up to the site on Tisha Be’av is somehow a provocation or a desecration is not something that Israel should have to accept.
That this sentiment is shared by Iran, Turkey, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is very much to be expected. But, from this government’s perspective, what had to be the most disappointing reactions Sunday were the responses coming from the United Arab List (Ra’am), a party that is a part of the coalition, and from Jordan.
Ra’am issued a statement saying that “Muslims have an exclusive right to al-Aqsa Mosque and no one else has any right over it.” In this definition, al-Aqsa Mosque is the entire 144 dunam Temple Mount complex.
RA’AM WARNED worshipers in a statement on Sunday against a “large number of settlers who have been storming and violating the sanctity of blessed al-Aqsa Mosque since the morning hours.”
Ra’am’s party leader Mansour Abbas surely knows that “settlers” (not every Jew with a knitted kippa is a “settler”) did not “storm” the site, but rather went up to it to commemorate the Jewish fast day, and to say otherwise just inflames passions. That is not the type of behavior expected from a member of the governing coalition.
And Jordan’s official news agency Petra reported that Jordan’s foreign ministry issued a statement slamming “Israel’s continued violations in  Al-Aqsa Mosque/ Al-Haram al-Sharif, the latest of which was today’s storming of the holy compound by extremist settlers under Israeli police protection.
“’The Israeli actions against the mosque are rejected and condemned, and represent a violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law, and Israel’s obligations as an occupying power in East Jerusalem,’ said Daifallah al-Fayez, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates on Sunday.”
The report said that the Jordanians sent an “official letter of protest” calling on Israel to stop its “violations and provocations,” and, among other things, respect “the freedom of worshipers.”
The call for freedom of worship at the site is particularly ironic since Jews are strictly forbidden to pray there or even mouth the words of a biblical verse.
Jordan’s King Abdullah is scheduled to meet US President Joe Biden on Monday in the White House, the first Arab leader to do so and an indication of the importance the Americans attach to their relationship with the Hashemite Kingdom.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said as much earlier this month in announcing Abdullah’s upcoming visit. “It will be an opportunity to discuss the many challenges facing the Middle East and showcase Jordan’s leadership role in promoting peace and stability in the region.”
She’s right, Jordan does have a role in promoting peace and stability in the region. One might question, however, if it fulfills that role when it joins the likes of Iran, Hamas and Turkey in turning the visit of 1,700 Jews to the Temple Mount on Tisha Be’av into a veritable attack on al-Aqsa Mosque.