…In short, Abbas continues to play a dangerous double game, whereby he poses both as a defender of Islam by attacking Jewish history and fueling terrorism while also purporting to be (and occasionally serving as) as Israel’s security partner.
But responsibility for the deteriorating situation in and around the Temple Mount must also be assigned to Israeli leadership.
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 a base of attack, while Jews have only limited (and increasingly impossible) visitation rights on Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) and are altogether forbidden from praying there.
This is no longer acceptable. Israel cannot redress the situation by attempting to “contain” things. 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 the Jewish presence in Zion.
It is time to recognize that the “status quo” on Har HaBayit is dead. It was killed by the mourabitoun; by the calumnies of Palestinian Authority-appointed Waqf imams, whose sermons on the Mount daily deny 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 Waqf; 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 renewed 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 that would represent 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 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 unilateral and destructive Waqf excavation/construction on the Temple Mount. And of course, it entails rigorous de-militarizing of the Temple Mount via air-tight Israeli security control.
These positions are no more “radical” or “explosive” than Palestinian demands for a massive release of terrorists from Israeli jails or for 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 proposed by Israel will engender Palestinian (and some Western) resistance, but with both resoluteness and sensitivity (including coordination with Jordan), Israel can 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 Jerusalem and to solidify Israel’s rights on Har HaBayit. Only a forward-looking and affirmative Israeli stance can create a new situation of just compromise on the Temple Mount.
This article was published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom on July 21, 2017.
David Weinberg is Director of Public Affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.