Not since the Camp David summit of 2000, when then-premier Ehud Barak tried to reach an agreement with Yasser Arafat (or maybe merely "expose his true face") have the Temple Mount and the right of return been so celebrated. Rightist hawks, with the help of a few plucked doves in the Labor Party, are pouring fire and brimstone on the "Geneva criminals" who had the temerity to even consider handing the Holy of Holies over to the Muslims. Government ministers and MKs worked day and night to find that Yasser Abed Rabbo and his colleagues did not sign on to the words "We hereby give up the right of return." Such weighty issues, of course, deserve penetrating public debate. But before that, it's worth noting how those critics cynically exploit Zionist ideology.
Let's assume that instead of Yasser Arafat, some collaborator instructed the Waqf to hand over the keys to Al Aqsa mosque to the chief rabbinate: Would Prime Minister Ariel Sharon then make the painful concession and bring home the settlers of Netzarim, who are guarding the beaches of Gaza for us? Let's assume that the Palestinian National Council were to decide that only Jews who fit the halachic definition had the right of return: Would Ehud Olmert then be ready to give up his former subjects in Jerusalem from the neighborhood of Kfar Akub?
As a gesture to Avigdor Lieberman, worried about the hatred of Israel popping up in public opinion polls in the territories, let's imagine that Dr. Khalil Shkaki would find that 95 percent of the residents of the West Bank support coexistence with the state of Israel and eradicating the Hamas: What chance would those Palestinians have that the transportation minister would relieve them of his presence in the settlement of Nokdim?
Actually, one doesn't need a particularly fertile imagination. Benjamin Netanyahu brags that during his term in office there were practically no bombings. What did the Palestinians get in return? The foreign minister (Ariel Sharon) calling on the settlers to grab every hilltop and put up outposts.
The use of national and religious symbols like the Temple Mount and the demographic threat of the right of return is no accident. Hot slogans about sticking to the rock of our existence, are more pleasing to the ear than an admission that, as you read this, dozens of illegal outposts are going through hastily arranged purification proceedings in Shaul Mofaz's mikveh. The issue of sovereignty over the Holy of Holies has even penetrated Yosef Lapid's secular skin. The burning debate - whether the Geneva Accord leaves an opening to the claim of a right to return - enables the Shinui platoon to distract its voters' attention from the legitimization it is giving to radical religious nationalism.
In an interview to the weekly Sheva on October 2, Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, one of the spiritual leaders of the National Religious Party, explains the real reason why Shinui's partner opposes the Geneva Accord. Here are some of the quotes: "The Six Day War was a miracle .. it's not yours, it belongs to the Blessed One ... saving lives means not giving them a single centimeter."
Eliahu and his disciples have liberated themselves of generations of authorities and the need to deal with the issue of the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel. "We'll work with them like (the Biblical) strangers in our midst," the rabbi promises.
Politicians like Olmert know that the demographic genie is already out of the bottle and threatening Israeli democracy. Instead of dealing with the growing gap between the number of Arab and Jewish babies born between the sea and the river, it is easier for him and his ilk to demonize the article about the refugees in the Geneva Accord, which proposes a fair and decent solution to the problem.
"Without the feeling of continuity with the ancient Israelite kingdoms, for whom the Temple Mount was the center of their existence, we really are foreign invaders," wrote Minister Natan Sharansky on these pages last week. "Giving up the Temple Mount is a justification of the Palestinian argument: You have no right to be in this country." In other words, from the establishment of the State of Israel until June 1967, we lived here as foreign invaders. In other words, a peace agreement that for the first time guarantees free entry to the Temple Mount strips us of our right to be here. That's worse than cynicism. It's the defamation of Zionism itself.
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