I am infuriated by the calls of western leaders upon Israel, all week long, to ensure the status quo on the Temple Mount and respect the sanctity of its Muslim holy sites. Often this has been accompanied by tsk-tsking about provocative incursions by Israeli police and so-called excessive force employed by police to disburse peaceful Arab worshipers.
The inversion of truth contained in the above description of events and the perversion involved in blaming Israel for Arab rioting on the Temple Mount is utterly galling.
The plain facts are that the so-called status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem long has been dead. It has been violated repeatedly in recent years by radical Palestinian and Islamic actors who have turned the mount into a base of hostile operations against Israel, instead of protecting it as zone of prayer and peace. On the other hand, Israel has acted with utmost restraint in the face of Arab assaults. (Too much restraint, in my opinion.)
Wakf and Islamic movement provocateurs have attacked Jewish visitors to the Mount, Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below the mount and Jewish worshipers on their way to the Western Wall. They have attacked Emiratis and Bahrainis praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque (because these countries signed Abraham Accord peace treaties). They have greatly restricted visitation rights to the holy Mount for all non-Muslims; and have hijacked the pulpits in the mosque on the mount to preach hatred and violence against Israel.
Palestinian terrorists have smuggled machine guns onto the Temple Mount and killed police guarding the gates of the mount. The terrorists launched their attack from within the Temple Mount and then fled into the shrines on the mount. The tens of thousands of boulders and rocks stockpiled by Arabs on the mount for their periodic, planned outbursts of rock-throwing violence, including repeated attacks over the past week, are no less outrageous.
The Wakf also has conducted vast, illegal construction projects on the mount and beneath it, willfully destroying centuries of Jewish archaeological treasures.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, a supposedly moderate Palestinian figure, continues to roil the waters and foment violence against Israel by repeating the canard that “Al Aqsa is in danger,” meaning that “the Zionists are conspiring to blow-up the mosque and Islamic shrine” on the mount. This is a blood libel that goes all the way back to the notorious pro-Nazi Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini in the pre-state period.
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” holy Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. “Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher,” 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 (again, 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.”
The former chief justice of the PA’s Religious Court, Sheikh Tayseer Al-Tamimi, 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 of the Temple Mount too, since the wall is part of the “blessed al-Aqsa Mosque” and not part of any “alleged” ancient Jewish temple. Such scurrilous, seditious talk fuels and legitimizes Arab violence.
More recently radical Islamic actors have upped their rhetoric about Jews “storming” Al-Aqsa and “slaughtering” Muslims at prayer. This week, the overheated, chutzpadik Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh even saluted Palestinian rioters “who proudly stand like minarets, hurling their stones in a volley of clay at the Zionist sympathizers defiling al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli occupation government.”
This inflamed and despicable discourse now is being picked-up by gullible (and not-so-gullible) Western progressives, who amplify the Big Lie by blabbering about Israel’s unprovoked and unacceptable actions, excessive force, and violations of the status quo.
Even well-meaning statesmen, like US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, have fallen victim to the big lie, reacting with mollycoddling mumbo-jumbo about the need for “all sides to de-escalate and respect the sanctity and status quo” of holy sites in Jerusalem.
All sides should de-escalate? Status quo? Sanctity of holy sites? What the heck are they talking about? There is only one side, the Arab side, that has purposefully escalated the violence in Jerusalem and defiantly defiled Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) over the past 20 years. It is the Palestinians who have turned Al Aqsa and the entire mountain plaza into an armed base of operations, an extra-territorial headquarters for propagation of blood-curdling big lies about Israel.
In fact, Islamic violence has become the new Temple Mount status quo. This is the status quo western leaders demand that Israel preserve?
UNFORTUNATELY, responsibility for the deteriorating situation in and around the Temple Mount also must be laid on Israeli leadership. The governments of Israel seem to have gone mute in the face of the slanders at the heart of the Palestinian-Islamic narrative regarding the mount and the Jewish presence in Zion.
Moreover, Jerusalem repeatedly prefers to merely quiet things down and restore calm, and swear fealty to a status quo that is long dead.
Instead of running radical Islamic ruffians off the mount and punishing them for attempting to turn the holy site into Armageddon, the Israel Police are under orders to avoid escalation almost at any cost. As such, they have become serial capitulators to militant Muslim muggers.
For example, the Jerusalem District Police chief last year ordered his troops to stand down and withdraw as Islamic radicals ransacked and burnt the police station on the Temple Mount. For example, as of yesterday the government altogether closed Har HaBayit to non-Muslim visitors.
In short, Israel has chosen to maintain a situation whereby the Muslims exercise exclusive religious and national rights on the Mount and have rigged the site as a base of attack, while Jews have only limited (and increasingly impossible) visitation rights and are almost altogether forbidden from praying there; and Jews are attacked even when approaching prayer at the Western Wall.
This is the status quo that the world expects Israel to uphold.
This is no longer acceptable! Israel cannot redress the situation by containing things and assuring its allies that it is acting responsibly with restraint.
Israel must parry Palestinian violence and Islamic incitement in Jerusalem by laying out a new diplomatic initiative to solidify Israel’s rights on Har HaBayit. Only a forward-looking and affirmative Israeli stance can create a new, acceptable situation on the Temple Mount.
I’ll say it again: The status quo on Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount, is dead. It was killed by the organized thuggery of the mourabitoun; by the calumnies of Palestinian Authority-appointed Wakf imams, whose sermons on the mount daily deny Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and indeed to any part of the Land of Israel; by Abbas’ diplomatic assaults on Jewish history and legitimacy in Jerusalem; and by terrorists who have been aided and abetted by the Wakf.
Therefore, in the context of attempts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, Israel should propose a plan to bring equity 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.
I am thinking of a time-sharing prayer arrangement like that in place at Maarat HaMachpela, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, or of a small synagogue on the fringes of the vast plaza that won’t overshadow the two large Moslem structures on the mount. This will also entail the end of illegal and destructive Wakf excavations on the Temple Mount without Israeli archaeological supervision.
These demands are no more radical or explosive than Palestinian demands for a massive Israeli release of Palestinian terrorist prisoners or the Palestinian demand for the dismantling of Judea and Samaria settlements. Israel’s insistence on Jewish prayer rights on Har HaBayit would be a legitimate, levelheaded and judicious demand. It would constitute a reasonable and moderate Israeli negotiating stance. It should become part of Israel’s diplomatic oeuvre.
Of course, this will engender Palestinian (and alas, western) resistance, but with both resoluteness and sensitivity Israel can overcome the opposition. Jerusalem is a consensus issue in Israeli society and politics. The Bennett-Lapid-Gantz government would enjoy widespread public backing for action to shore-up Israel’s stake in the holy city and especially on the Temple Mount.
The writer is a senior fellow at The Kohelet Forum and in the research department of Habithonistim: Israel’s Defense and Security Forum. The views expressed here are his own. His diplomatic, defense, political and Jewish world columns over the past 25 years are archived at davidmweinberg.com.