Temple Mount truths
The situation in the Temple Mount area must be dealt with with sensitivity and intelligence - but also with resolution, to safeguard crucial Israeli interests that were determined two generations ago and retain their validity to this day.
The excavation work and bridge construction near the Mugrabi ramp have turned into the Battle of Armageddon, as happens every time the Temple Mount and its environs are involved. Who can withstand the temptation to get involved in the religious-national conflict embodied in the Temple Mount, a conflict that has already been compared to a ticking bomb with apocalyptic powers of destruction?
Since the work there - whose goal is to replace a pedestrian bridge that links the Western Wall with the Mugrabi Gate - began, many have joined the commotion. The first to jump on the opportunity were leaders of the Islamic movements in Israel, headed by Sheikh Raed Salah.
The Islamic figures in Israel long ago turned themselves into the "defenders of Al-Aqsa" and they were the spirit behind the massive construction in the Temple Mount compound over the last few years. Now they are standing at the head of the very public struggle against Israel, which allegedly intends in the bridge work "to undermine the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to build the Third Temple." Other Islamicists, like Hamas in the Gaza Strip, are taking part in the incitement.
King Abdullah of Jordan, who is trying with all his might to retain an influence over what happens on the Temple Mount, cannot appear to be lagging behind the inciters. Unfortunately, Israeli figures have added to the tumult, including archaeologists who have taken the opportunity to clash over matters of prestige, and political officials who are instigating confrontations between "right" and "left." All the hullabaloo is broadcast live throughout the Muslim world, and the voices that routinely talk about "timing" and "public relations failures" can already be heard.
It is worth mentioning, for those who have forgotten and those who would like to make others forget, that the situation that prevails at the Temple Mount and the Western Wall plaza is based on a quite stable status quo that has been in place for 40 years. David Ben-Gurion described the situation in June 1967 by saying: "The Western Wall is for the Jews at the moment, and the Temple Mount is for the Muslims at the moment, and that is the reality we have to accept."
At the same time, Moshe Dayan determined that the Mugrabi Gate would remain in Israel's exclusive control, to prevent the Muslim authorities from having the ability to unilaterally close all the gates to the Temple Mount. The construction of the bridge from the Western Wall plaza to the Mugrabi Gate is therefore a crucial Israeli interest, which even the Waqf authorities do not deny, and it is part of the status quo.
The incitement against the construction of the bridge is a clear attempt to undercut the status quo. Therefore, it must not influence the authorities' decision to replace the temporary bridge. The activity of the security forces, which ensures that the work is carried out, deserves full support.
All the same, we must remember that the status quo applies not only to the Western Wall plaza, but also to the Temple Mount. For that reason, those who contemptuously reject the charge that the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque are being damaged must also react with the same derision toward attempts by Jewish zealots to change the situation at the Temple Mount or incite against the Muslim Waqf. The situation in the Temple Mount area must be dealt with with sensitivity and intelligence - but also with resolution, to safeguard crucial Israeli interests that were determined two generations ago and retain their validity to this day.