When Israel is portrayed as the loser, our enemies begin to imagine victory - opinion

Israel’s historic queasiness expressing its sovereignty and control over the Temple Mount began exactly at the moment of ultimate victory.

PALESTINIANS PROTEST against an Israeli judge’s approval of ‘quiet’ Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, in October. (photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)
PALESTINIANS PROTEST against an Israeli judge’s approval of ‘quiet’ Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, in October.
(photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

Israel endured a great loss over the last week or so.

No, it was not inflicted on the battlefield. No Palestinian group or terrorist organization is any match for the might of the IDF and Israel’s other security forces. Israel suffered a fair amount of humiliation, at least in the eyes of its enemies, in the way it handled the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount for most Israelis, including its decision-makers, is a non-issue. Very little think or consider its symbolic, national or religious nature. Not so for the Palestinians, for whom it is the central rallying call for both their national and rejectionist aspirations.

While they have been fighting a war of violent rejectionism against Jewish sovereignty for well over 100 years and have never won a battle, there is one place where Israel’s sovereignty, authority and control is circumspect, to say the least.

Israel’s historic queasiness expressing its sovereignty and control over the Temple Mount began exactly at the moment of ultimate victory. In 1967, Israeli forces had almost miraculously pushed back combined Arab forces on all of its fronts, including the well regarded and disciplined Royal Jordanian Army in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.

 People gather around the Dome of the Rock, in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City October 28, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD) People gather around the Dome of the Rock, in the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City October 28, 2021 (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

When the paratroopers liberated the  on June 7 and Lt. Gen. Mordechai “Motta” Gur uttered those immortal words “The Temple Mount is in our hands,” others were climbing onto the golden roof of the Dome of the Rock proudly hoisting an Israeli flag.

This event, inconceivable today, was what victorious armies had done through the millennia. When an army conquers territory, especially liberates land it sees as past of its ancestral and indigenous homeland, it raises its flag.

The raised flag has many aspects. It is a rallying call for a people, a sign of victory for those who fought and a sign of defeat to those who were vanquished. Nonetheless, a short time after the flag was raised it was demanded to be removed by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan who was witnessing the scene from a nearby hill. Dayan, like our leaders today, were worried that this singular act of demonstrative sovereignty, would set the region and the wider Muslim world on fire.

We would never know what would truly happen because the flag was removed and control over the Temple Mount, despite some misgivings, was handed over to the Wakf, funded by Jordan, who remain in control today.

What amounts to the management of the Temple Mount up until today was a ‘status quo’ formally enacted in 1757 during the Ottoman occupation of Jerusalem. It was primarily a tool meant to guide conduct and control over various Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city. Of course, Jews being a subjugated people with no sovereignty of their own as leverage were not a party to this status quo.

The status quo as invoked by everyone from Israeli, Arab and international authorities is thus a subtle reminder of Jewish subjugation and powerlessness. Moreover, the fact that a ruling written by a Muslim ruler during their occupation of the city hundreds of years ago that clearly privileges Islam shouldn’t really prejudice the situation today.

Nevertheless, what has been understood as the modern status quo in the 20th century was also far from kind to Jews. Not least because during the Jordanian conquest and occupation of the Old City from 1948 to 1967, no Jews were allowed to enter its walls, synagogues and graveyards were desecrated and destroyed, and no Jew was allowed near the Western Wall let alone the Temple Mount.

Furthermore, there has been an understanding that since 1967 Jews are allowed to ascend the Temple Mount as long as they do not enter the mosque or pray. However, the fact that Jews can now be attacked by the Wakf or arrested by the Israeli police for drinking from the water taps and fountains, bringing up any religious or national paraphernalia and even loitering for too long demonstrates that the status quo is not static but keeps on moving further away from Jewish rights and freedoms.

It is absolutely ironic that the masses of press releases and communiques in recent weeks have demanded the freedom of worship and right to pray on the Temple Mount, yet the only people not allowed to do so are Jews. Israel is right to allow unfettered access to holy sites for all people. Those Muslims who wish to pray at al-Aqsa, especially during their holy month of Ramadan, should be able to do so.

However, those who come to fight, riot, and treat the Temple Mount and any of its buildings and structures with disrespect should be arrested and banned. This should be a Muslim interest first and foremost.

Jews should also be allowed to visit the Temple Mount without harsh restriction. No Jew has ever stormed the Temple Mount and the few hours a day they are allowed is almost entirely conducted with respect and reverence for the holiest site in Judaism.

To prevent Jews from visiting, even with all the subversive restrictions, is to convey defeat. It is telling the extremists that they have won, and Israel will stand down and retreat in the face of threats.

It emboldens the violent rejectionists and terrorists that what begins on the Temple Mount will eventually happen throughout Israel.

For them, victory on the Temple Mount emboldens the dreams of an end to Jewish sovereignty.

It is why the Temple Mount is seen as such a rallying point for Muslim extremists, including ISIS and the Taliban. They see the physical and military strength of Israel, but also see how it can be bullied out of its interests.

They see a religious war and what we see as an issue of public order.

Winning on the Temple Mount might not seem much to too many Jews in Israel, but the more we keep on losing there, the more Israel’s days are seen as numbered by our enemies.

The writer is executive director of Beyadenu – Returning to the Temple Mount, an Israeli NGO strengthening the connection of the Jewish People with the Temple Mount.