Analysis |

Israeli Decision Makers Once Again Ignored the Warnings of Bloodshed

Israel is trapped on the Temple Mount inside an iron pillory, whose only key is a comprehensive political change

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Tear gas fumes billowing during clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces after Friday prayers at the main entrance of the West bank city of Bethlehem on July 21, 2017 at a protest against new Israeli security measures implemented at Al-Aqsa mosque complex, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem.
Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces after Friday prayers in Bethelehem, July 21, 2017 at a protest against new Israeli security measures implemented at Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.Credit: MUSA AL SHAER/AFP
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

It is now clear to everyone, the metal detectors will not stay. After six dead in the first 12 hours after the Friday prayers – three Palestinians in the riots on Friday in Jerusalem and the three Jews murdered in the terrorist attack in Halamish Friday night – it is clear that all the warnings from the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces on the danger of leaving the metal detectors in place have come about.

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Back on June 23, 2014, MK Miri Regev (Likud), then the chairwoman of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, convened the committee for a session on the arrangements for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount – after holding 12 meetings on the subject over the previous year. As in the prior sessions, police officers squirmed in their chairs in the face of Regev’s admonishments, who contemptuously rejected their warnings about the danger in changing the status quo on the Temple Mount. “They said the sky would fall, there would be a third intifada if we open the Mount. Let no one threaten us with the opening of a third Intifada. If a third intifada is necessary so we can defend and preserve the right of Jews to go up to the Temple Mount – let there be an intifada,” Regev said with her characteristic pathos, to the joy of the Temple Mount activists attending the committee meeting.

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A week later the bodies of the three Israeli teens who had been kidnapped and murdered in Gush Etzion were found, Mohammed Abu Khdeir was murdered and all hell broke loose. There were mass riots in Jerusalem, the likes of which had not been seen since the first intifada, which then developed into hit and run terror attacks and later into stabbing attacks. This contempt cost many their lives.

This week, like in 2014 and in 1996 during the Kotel Tunnel riots, as well as in 2000 when Ariel Sharon went up on the Temple Mount, Israeli decision makers chose to disregard the warnings. This time they explained that the metal detectors, like the Kotel Tunnels or entry of the chairman of the opposition to the Mount before them, were essential to preserve national honor. Once again, they proved that Israel only reconsiders its actions after blood has been spilled. Every effort by Israel to carry out a major step on the Temple Mount or near it has ended in bloodshed, and, in the end, has weakened Israeli sovereignty on the Mount while strengthening the Waqf’s status to boot.

The last time, in 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to put an end to Knesset members visiting the Temple Mount, limit the groups of Jews visiting the Mount and admit in his own voice in both Hebrew and English that Jews have no right to pray on the Temple Mount. All of this was part of an agreement with Jordan's King Abdullah in an effort to calm things down.

Israeli citizens are entitled to ask, how many times will this scenario repeat itself? How many times until Israel understands that despite the 50 years of occupation and unending clichés from politicians, it is not the sovereign on the Temple Mount?

Israel is imprisoned on the Temple Mount in a cast iron pillory. This pillory is assembled from its security interests, the relations with Jordan and the Arab world, the need to provide its citizens with security, its international commitments, relations with the United States and Europe, and much more.

The key to opening the lock that imprisons us on the Temple Mount is a comprehensive diplomatic change, negotiations that include all the issues, from Jerusalem to refugees, from borders to settlements. As long as this does not happen, and it will not happen in the foreseeable future, Israel must preserve the status quo as much as possible, to make it difficult for Jews to enter the Temple Mount for religious reasons and to preserve the status and dignity of the Jordanian Waqf on the Mount. Any other advice is poor counsel.

Some will say, justifiably, that such a policy prevents the freedom of worship of Jews on the Temple Mount. This is true, it undeniably violates their rights. But with all due respect to the rights of Jews to pray on the Mount, the Temple Mount is part of a larger problem; millions of people live near it, whose more basic rights are violated – including the right to vote and be elected, the right to freedom of movement, equality, life and dignity.

So the Temple activists must show respect. They should take a number and wait in line. When we solve the problem of the occupation, we can discuss the rights of Jews to worship on Temple Mount. Over the past few days we have counted the dead because no Israeli leader has been able to utter this simple truth.

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