Analysis

Temple Mount Crisis Shows That Right-wing Bluster Is Ultimately Followed by Capitulation

All of Netanyahu's cabinet dwarves enthusiastically defended a policy that turned out to be dangerous, but they need to act like ministers rather than the prime minister's social media supporters

Prime Minister Netanyahu, center, with his cabinet secretary
Abir Sultan/Pool photo via AFP

As the famous metal detectors that Israel installed at entrances to Jerusalem's Temple Mount now make their way back into their cartons, a cautious assessment can be made of the storm that installing them, following the killing of two Israeli policemen there, caused. The crisis of leadership – with the effort to shift responsibility from the security cabinet to the police and vice versa – has already been aired and will continue to be debated a lot. No less important, however, is the failure of the right wing and the fact that the Temple Mount crisis has (again) proven that it has nothing to offer other than empty slogans that evaporate into thin air on their way from the social media to the test of reality.

Of all of Netanyahu's dwarves, there are taller ones, such as Culture Minister Miri Regev, who said: "The metal detectors were installed to protect the sanctity of life so this decision by the prime minister is an essential step, and I am sure it won't change." And then there are the shorter ones, such as coalition whip David Bitan, who said: "Letting the metal detectors remain is a test of our sovereignty, and we must leave them there and not surrender to Hamas' threats to enflame things on the ground."

They fervently defended a decision that turned out to be hasty and dangerous. There were those who even went further, after the horrendous slaughter of residents of the West Bank settlement of Halamish, throwing another match on the fire and suggesting the death penalty for terrorists.

What is disturbing is that this wasn't coming just in the far reaches of Netanyahu's Likud party, such as Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who were thirsty for a bit of attention to force their way towards another Knesset term, but also from senior cabinet ministers including Defense Minister Avidgor Lieberman, Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (who see themselves as Netanyahu's successors).

The comparison may be tired and overused, but it should be aired again. These are members of the Israeli cabinet, not the prime minister's supporters on social media. They know the death penalty can't be imposed on one or another terrorist. So why the diatribes on the subject?

After a few days and one incident after another – even if they have attempted to separate them by force from the tensions over the Temple Mount – then it so happens that an irate carpenter in Amman stabs an Israeli embassy employee with a screwdriver. There was also terrorism in 1948 and 1929 and at the time of the Bible and so forth. They were also overcome by panic.

All of these he-men, who know better than the hysterical Shin Bet security service and the Israeli army what needs to be done and how, started looking out of the corner of their eyes for an honorable way out in the face of reality. (Thanks go out to Jordanian King Abdullah, who gave an ultimatum, and also to the low energy of the Palestinians, which is not sustaining an intifada).

That same Naftali Bennnett who wanted to kill terrorists has become best man to a technological solution that was put together "with diligence and determination." Those same people who hadn't hesitated to preach for a change in the status quo on the Temple Mount -- no less – are expected to come out in the near future spearheading a marketing effort to show that the installation of cameras on the Temple Mount instead of the metal detectors is a resounding success and not capitulation to the Arabs.

Nearly a week after Netanyahu's arrogant remarks to the prime ministers of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the effect that he was halting the Arabs at Europe's doorstep, he has now come face-to-face with reality, which doesn't stop in its tracks in his presence.

It's a reality in which he is not capable of dealing with 300,000 Arabs in East Jerusalem and another 2 million or so Israeli Arabs and approximately four million more Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It's a reality in which Netanyahu, who authored a book on terrorism, had to release large numbers of terrorists in exchange for a single Israeli soldier due to the pressure of public opinion.

Demonstrative visits by Jews to the Temple Mount that became a hallmark defining increasing number of right-wing circles is a burning torch that can be expected to ignite other crises. Such an aggressive stance, whose purpose is mainly not religious but an expression of sovereignty, can reasonably be expected to bring about the perfect Middle East apocalypse.

This is the only merchandise that the right wing has to offer with certainty. Other than this, everything is subject to capitulation.