The clashes yesterday between Israeli police who entered the Temple Mount plaza and Palestinian stone throwers and inciters seemingly ended calmly. There were "only" three policemen who suffered light injuries. In contrast to prior incidents on the Temple Mount, and using the standard wherein the number of casualties is the measurement by which one views the gravity of an incident, what happened yesterday was almost routine. Yet it is that very routine which indicates that the Temple Mount is behaving like an active, simmering volcano; the timing of its next major eruption is impossible to gauge. The government's attitude, by which it views these events as just another competitive front between Israel and the Palestinians, is likely to foment a violent outburst which will ignite the entire Middle East.

The trepidation of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims from what is referred to as "the Judaization of Jerusalem," or the Jewish takeover of the Temple Mount, cannot be overstated. Archaeological digs; the construction of Jewish neighborhoods and Jewish housing in and around the Old City; and the purchase of property and condemning of public parks with the intention of using the land to build Jewish residential neighborhoods are all apparently part of a deliberate policy being pursued by the government of Israel. Yet, while the battle against the building and inhabiting of apartments in East Jerusalem has been limited to a diplomatic tug-of-war between Israel and the American administration, the battle over the Temple Mount is being waged on the street.

This is a struggle in which Israeli Muslims stand alongside their coreligionists throughout the world, all of whom view themselves as custodians of one of Islam's holiest sites. Political and diplomatic disagreements between the Palestinians and the Arab world go by the wayside in the face of the religious struggle at hand. Israel has been made fully aware that even friendly states like Jordan and Egypt cannot stand idly by while the Muslim world broods.

As the entity responsible for overseeing visits to the Temple Mount and ensuring the safety of guests, the Israel Police is caught between a rock and a hard place. It is wedged between a government which views strengthening the Jewish hold on the Temple Mount and its environs as a political and diplomatic objective, and Palestinians who view themselves as the fortifying wall standing in the way of such Israeli aims. Yet it is precisely the sensitive nature of the police's task that requires it to adopt a more tolerant position of understanding and sound judgment. Its success will not be measured by an ostentatious show of force. Rather, it will be measured by its ability to hold a dialogue and reach understandings with the Muslim interlocutors in order to prevent a conflagration.