Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, September 18, 2015.
Israel must parry Palestinian and Islamic incitement in Jerusalem and lay out a new diplomatic initiative to solidify Israel’s rights on Har HaBayit. 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 the 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.
After more than three years of Arab violence in Jerusalem, and escalating Islamic incitement and violence on Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), Prime Minister Netanyahu now says that he is going to get tough on the preachers, instigators, bomb makers and stone throwers that have been terrorizing Jerusalem and attempting to provoke holy Armageddon.
It’s about time. Yet security measures alone won’t be sufficient.
Yes, it is critical to beef up Israel’s armed presence in all eastern parts of the city – and to prevent, for example, the disgraceful situation where graves are regularly vandalized and mourners are attacked on the Mount of Olives. Or the intolerable situation where one can be stoned to death in your car while coming home from a Rosh Hashana meal.
Of course it is also imperative that the police and courts crack down on stone and firebomb throwers. Fines of NIS 10,000 should be levied for each rock thrown, and Israeli national insurance payments should be stripped from the families of attackers.
Sure it’s appropriate and long overdue to ban the “mourabitoun” and the “mourabitaat” from the Temple Mount. (These are the Arabic terms for male and female sentries posted by the Islamic Movement who harass any and all non-Moslem visitors to the Mount).
Al Aqsa also should be cleared of all pipe bombs and pipe bomb makers, permanently. The Mount should be closed to Moslem worshippers for 24 hours or 24 days each time the Wakf allows its premises to become a weapons depository or a staging ground for riots.
But none of this will truly suffice. Just beefing up security won’t do the trick. Israel must not be content with “restoring calm” to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
It must parry Palestinian and Islamic incitement in Jerusalem and lay 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 situation of reasonable compromise on the Temple Mount.
AFTER ALL, the so-called status quo on Har HaBayit is dead. It was killed by the mourabitoun, and by the slanders of the Palestinian Authority-appointed Wakf imams on the Mount, who daily deny any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount (and indeed to any part of the Land of Israel).
Consider this: PA President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday 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 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 went on to babble about (false) Jewish threats to the mosques on the Mount, and to praise the mourabitoun. “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.”
Such ugly and irresponsible talk fuels and legitimizes the Arab violence. The PA has become an extremist, not a moderate, actor in this matter.
(Cynically, Abbas has revved up tensions around the Temple Mount in each of the last three Septembers, in advance of his appearances at the UN General Assembly; a desperate and dangerous ploy aimed at gaining global attention).
THE NETANYAHU GOVERNMENT prefers to merely “quiet” things down, and maintain the situation whereby Jews have only limited (and increasingly impossible) visitation rights on Har HaBayit and are all-together forbidden from praying there; while the Moslems claim exclusive religious rights and have rigged the site as an armed camp.
For fear of Arab world and international response, the Netanyahu government is hesitant to attempt to truly change this situation.
This is no longer acceptable. Israel cannot redress the situation by just attempting to “contain” things. Israel should not swallow the Islamic violence that has become the new status quo on the Mount. 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.
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.
This can be effected either through a time-sharing prayer arrangement similar to that in place at the Cave of Machpela in Hebron, or through a synagogue tucked away on the fringes of the vast plaza that won’t overshadow the two large Moslem structures on the Mount. It 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 an end to building in the settlements or the dismantling of settlements. They are legitimate, levelheaded, and judicious demands. They constitute a reasonable and moderate Israeli negotiating stance, and should become part of Israel’s diplomatic oeuvre.
Nor would it be rash to advance such claims. Israel’s insistence on national and prayer rights on Har HaBayit will not cause World War III. Moslem threats to march on Jerusalem if the (non-existent) status quo is altered – are phony; nothing more than the usual hysterics and posturing that characterize Arab politics.
The new position proposed by Israel will engender Palestinian (and American) resistance, but with both resoluteness and sensitivity Israel can succeed and overcome the opposition. Jerusalem is still a consensus issue in Israeli society and politics. The new Netanyahu government would enjoy widespread public backing for action to shore-up Israel’s stake in the holy city and especially on the Temple Mount.