Friday, February 28, 2014
by Nadav Shragai
For years now, the Temple Mount has not been in our hands and Israeli sovereignty in the area has been de facto conditional. The past three generations have seen Jews allowed to visit the compound, but only as long as they do not look like Jews, pray like Jews and, at times, as long as they do not mention to anyone that they had been there.
It has been 47 years since Moshe Dayan handed over the keys to the Temple Mount to the Jerusalem waqf (Islamic trust) and ever since then we have been forced to stomach straw and gravel, incitement and violence, exclusion and damage to antiquities. Hamas and Palestinian Authority flags are flown over the area more often than not and it seems that the only flag the police make sure is never seen there as is Israel's flag, and most recently -- Jewish worshipers.
On Tuesday, just like two weeks ago, and two months ago, and a year ago, the compound was closed to Jewish visitors over the Muslim worshipers' riots and threats of violence. The meager allowances made to the Jewish worshipers to visit the holy site in set hours and in very small groups, are being eroded.
The status quo on the Temple Mount, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to maintain, is fluid and the current allowances are constantly gnawed at to the detriment of the Jewish side. It is one thing if we were to stick to and uphold the official status quo, but as things stand, the Muslims are gaining increased control over the Temple Mount. When it comes to the Muslim worshipers the status quo is as pliable as play dough, but when it comes to the Jews it is as hard as a rock.
Jordan's position on the Temple Mount is becoming stronger. Israel believed that to keep radical elements, such as Islamic Movement head Sheikh Raed Salah, at bay, Jordan's status there should be bolstered, but while the original intent was well meant, the reality has seen it taken too far. Far enough, in fact, that last week, Jordan was able to pressure Israel into postponing a Knesset session on Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Far enough, it seems, that Jordan's influence has exceeded the Temple Mount and now stretches beyond it.
In the early 2000s, Jordan was entrusted with the restoration of the southern and eastern walls, whose foundations have destabilized. It then vetoed the Israeli plan to replace the temporary, rickety wooden bridge leading to the Mughrabi Gate at the Western Wall with a permanent one. They fail to see -- and justly so, as far as they are concerned -- the difference between the walls. The result is an eyesore leading up to Judaism's holiest site.
A similar Jordanian veto is currently preventing adequate restoration work at the Little Western Wall, some 180 meters (590 feet) north of the Western Wall plaza. Was that really what we meant when we sought cooperation with Jordan?
As part of the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, Israel pledged to "afford high priority to Jordan's historic role" on the Temple Mount, should the peace process mature to the point where its permanent status in negotiated. In reality, this priority is already in effect.
In 2012, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority signed a mysterious treaty regulating the two's respective status on the Temple Mount. Israel's fingerprints are evident there as well, as it sought to ensure Jordan's role as the leading Arab entity on the Temple Mount ahead of time, but things have gone too far yet again.
It is inconceivable that Jordan's influence on the Temple Mount would cripple Israel, even given the special -- and less known -- ties between the two countries. The Muslims' violence in the compound is a red line and unless it ceases they should be temporarily barred from the Temple Mount. It has been done before and the sky did not fall down around us. The Muslims must be made to understand that when it comes to the Temple Mount, they also have something to lose.