The Temple Mount Is a Powder Keg

Israel's public officials must show responsibility and stop setting the ground of Jerusalem alight.

Haaretz Editorial
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Soldiers at the Temple Mount last week.
Soldiers at the Temple Mount last week. Credit: AFP
Haaretz Editorial

The attempted assassination of right-wing Temple Mount activist Yehuda Glick brought the tensions that have been simmering in Jerusalem over the past months to new heights. Glick was shot after leaving a conference titled “Israel Returns to the Temple Mount” whose aim was to change the status quo there.

During the past two years, the Shin Bet security service and police have warned countless times about the dangers inherent in changing the status quo and permitting Jewish worship on the Temple Mount, as well as the danger posed by initiatives by right-wing activists to advance this goal.

Besides the activists, many elected officials have disregarded the warnings and made efforts to alter the already delicate balance on the Temple Mount. The present Knesset, unlike its predecessors, has an abundance of members who openly proclaim that changing the status quo at the Temple Mount is a key piece of their agenda. These MKs include Uri Ariel, Miri Regev, Zeev Elkin, Yariv Levin and Moshe Feiglin. Feiglin once again attempted to enter the Temple Mount yesterday morning following the assassination attempt on Glick.

This increased political extremism is mirrored by a similar trend in the religious discourse: Whereas the “Temple Mount Faithful” were once considered a small and radical fringe group, the issue of ascending the Temple Mount has become a mainstream topic in the national-religious discourse. The halakhic prohibition against ascending the Temple Mount has cracked, and more and more rabbis have begun to permit it. This trend is feeding the growing religious extremism on the Palestinian side, which is manifest in the activity of groups like the northern branch of the Islamic Movement and its leader Sheikh Raed Salah. Both sides are pushing the national conflict toward the highly volatile religious realm.

Up to now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has kept his cool and not yielded to irresponsible pressure from the right. The despicable assassination attempt on Glick must not become the trigger for a dangerous change in the Temple Mount status quo. Our public officials must show responsibility and stop setting the ground of Jerusalem alight. Violence and stubbornly defiant messages will not help. Only diplomatic solutions that also take into account Palestinian and Muslim sensitivities will.

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