What is Zion if not the Temple Mount?
Olmert's silence today, in light of reports on concessions at the Temple Mount and in the Old City as part of negotiations over a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians that are supposedly taking place in his name, cannot be understood as reassuring.
Only six years have passed since the night of Tisha B'Av 5761. Ehud Olmert, then mayor of Jerusalem, led thousands in the annual march around the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, and uttered the age-old Jewish oath of allegiance together with the emotional marchers: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning, let my tongue cleave to my palate, if I do not remember thee." "Giving up the Temple Mount," explained Olmert then, in the spirit of Ben-Gurion's remarks about Jerusalem in 1948, "undermines the very existence of the state. If on the Temple Mount we have no rights, then where do we? Whoever concedes the Temple Mount, in effect says: I have no rights to any place in the Land of Israel." From an unknown place someone pulled out a crumpled piece of paper and read in a trembling voice four lines written by Jerusalem poet Yehuda Karni: "Yesterday and still this morning / you carried its sacred name and torch / I don't know when you moved to lying / with the oath or with the betrayal."
Olmert's silence today, in light of reports on concessions at the Temple Mount and in the Old City as part of negotiations over a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians that are supposedly taking place in his name, cannot be understood as reassuring. On the contrary: His silence is troubling and calls for serious concern.
Six years ago, the man who today holds the post of prime minister of Israel did not make do with a renewed oath of allegiance in front of the Lions Gate, but also moved his office closer to the Western Wall. Many people who were deeply shocked by the possibility of the city being divided and of a handover of the Temple Mount visited the ad-hoc office at the time. One of them, whose words moved Olmert in particular, was Moshe Landau, the retired Supreme Court president. Landau talked of the weakness of the national will, of embarrassment, of confusion and a loss of direction. He insisted on the importance of symbols, history and national honor, "things that we tend to belittle today," and also was not ashamed to mention the tears that flowed when he heard the news that "the Temple Mount is in our hands." "In my opinion," the distinguished judge explained, "Zionism is the yearning for Zion. And what is Zion if not the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives and the Old City?" Conceding Jerusalem and its holy places, many fine people already understood then, is neither legitimate nor moral. Such a decision cannot be binding on the State of Israel or the Jewish people. If it is indeed true that someone is now working on Olmert's behalf, and perhaps even - perish the thought - with his knowledge, to again divide Jerusalem and its holy places, he is doing so without having received a mandate and, primarily, is misleading the residents of the state and the Jewish people.
It is no coincidence that the most vehement letter of objection to Ehud Barak's plan in 2000 did not touch on the issue of evacuating settlements, but related to the issue of Jerusalem. Figures such as legal expert Meir Rosenne, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and France; Moti Ashkenazi, the driving force behind the post-Yom Kippur War protest movement; and Brig. Gen. (res.) Avraham Bar David, a former chief artillery officer, thought then that "whoever tries to hand over Jerusalem will violate the democratic rules of the game," and even "undermine the consensus on the basis of which the State of Israel exists." The dozens who back then signed the unusual letter of rejection made it clear that such a decision would not be binding on them, the State of Israel and on the Jewish people as a whole.
These things apply today as well. The Old City of Jerusalem and its holy sites are not merely territory. They are the embodiment of the Jewish right and of justice, from which the entire Zionist enterprise is derived and upon which it is built. Without them everything will be undermined. Who knows this better than Olmert, who spoke of this from the depths of his heart only a few years ago?