Take Back Temple Mount

Classified report on Waqf's transgressions means Israel has no control over Judaism's holiest site.

Prof. Aryeh Eldad should use his scientific training to make sure that his political commentary be informed by the absolute minimum of intellectual integrity.
Aryeh Eldad
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Prof. Aryeh Eldad should use his scientific training to make sure that his political commentary be informed by the absolute minimum of intellectual integrity.
Aryeh Eldad

A very grave report appeared on a Jewish website in New York (jewishvoiceny.com) last week. This was a report issued by Israel’s State Comptroller. It can only be read by Web surfers, since it was designated as classified material by the Knesset’s State Control Committee in the summer of 2010. The report rebukes the authorities for not exercising their power over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, leaving it under the complete control of the Islamic Waqf council, which administers Muslim buildings in East Jerusalem. Since the Waqf is officially a Jordanian body, operated and financed by Jordan, the Temple Mount is under the de facto sovereignty of the Hashemite Kingdom, not that of Israel. It turns out that the famous words of Motta Gur, the paratroop commander who conquered the Mount in 1967, “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” remain devoid of content.

The Comptroller’s report is so harsh that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did his utmost to have it suppressed. To this end he sent the cabinet secretary at the time, Zvi Hauser, to a subcommittee of the State Control Committee. It decided that the report would remain classified, and that only its salient points would be published in a one-page summary. Interestingly, representatives of the Shin Bet security service told the committee that publication of the report would not be detrimental to state security. Classifying the report was not meant to protect our security, but to conceal the incompetence of the authorities under Netanyahu’s guidance.

It has become the custom that the prime minister determines everything that transpires on the Temple Mount. The execution is left to the police. This is so because the Waqf only “recognizes” the police force as a representative of the “occupier.” It does not recognize any civilian state authorities that are supposed to operate on the Mount, such as the Israel Antiquities Authority or the Jerusalem municipality. The Antiquities Authority is meant to approve and supervise any work carried out on the compound, which is a recognized archaeological site of heightened importance for the whole world.

In practice, the Waqf does as it pleases there. In November 1999 it perpetrated an unprecedented archaeological crime on the site when it dug up an enormous amount of earth filled with artifacts from the First and Second Temple periods, in order to pave an entrance way to an underground mosque in Solomon’s Stables. This area was unlawfully designated as a prayer section without any building permit provided. The unsupervised, unauthorized work almost caused a collapse of the walls surrounding the Mount, since it altered the flow and drainage of rainwater.

The attorney general issued a directive many years ago, by which he must be notified of any infringement of the law on the Temple Mount before any act of law enforcement is carried out. All the authorities, including police, interpreted this directive as open-ended permission to disregard their duties. In this way a situation developed in which it didn’t matter whether or not the Waqf’s transgressions were reported to the attorney general or not - nothing was done in response to repeated flouting of the law. Thus, the attorney general bears great responsibility for the fact that the law was not enforced when it came to the Waqf on the Temple Mount, giving it de facto immunity.

The classified report has now been published. The Knesset State Control Committee must convene immediately and remove its classified status. The Knesset must then debate the report’s findings and demand immediate implementation of its recommendations. The Temple Mount must return to Israeli sovereignty.

Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem's Old City.Credit: Moshe Gilad

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