Netanyahu, Father of the Temple Mount Mosques

Recent clashes in Jerusalem's Old City prove that under Netanyahu’s rule, Israelis are the ones to cave in – rather than Palestinians

File photo: A woman shouts as a group of visitors, some of them wearing Jewish skullcaps, tour the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, March 14, 2019.
Ammar Awad/Reuters

If there’s a supreme medal of honor in the religion of Islam, it should be awarded to Benjamin Netanyahu. About 1,300 years ago Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, the fifth Umayyad caliph, enabled the building of a mosque on the Temple Mount. Since then, no ruler, not even Saladin, allowed new mosques to be built on the Mount. (The Dome of the Rock, an expert explained to me, is not a mosque.) Until Benjamin Netanyahu came along.

Despite numerous requests, he did not enable the building of a structure for Jewish prayer on the holiest site for Jews. By contrast, he did enable the building of three mosques on it. The construction of the first, in Solomon’s Stables, began in 1996. Today it’s the largest mosque in the Middle East, with room for some 10,000 worshippers.

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During the digs, Jewish archaeological findings of considerable significance were destroyed. The outcry against this desecration rose all the way up to the heart of the government, where it got stuck.

The second mosque, at the Hulda Gates, started to be built in 1998. During the works Hebrew inscriptions dating back more than a thousand years were erased. The third, for the moment, the Golden Gate (or Gate of Mercy), which Haaretz writers take pains, for reasons of their own, to call by its Arab name Bab al-Rahma, was built this month.

Even if his weakness costs him quite a few votes this time, Netanyahu, who again doesn’t dare to curb the Palestinians, will once again, as is his wont, cave in. A firebomb was hurled this week at the police station – the only symbol of Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount. The Mount was closed, but as a fitting response to this terrorist attack, Netanyahu reopened it a few hours later.

Netanyahu’s defenders, like Minister Gilad Erdan, are trying to calm things down, saying, “There won’t be another mosque on the Temple Mount.” In contrast, an official deeply involved in the goings on said: “In view of Netanyahu’s behavior at past events, like allowing the construction of the previous mosques and his folding on the metal detectors issue in July 2017, it is most likely that the mosque set up this month at the Golden Gate, which has never been used as a mosque, is a fait accompli.”

Nine gates to the Temple Mount serve the Arab population. Only one, the Mugrabi Gate, is intended for Jews and non-Jewish tourists. Waqf people and Israeli policemen stick closely to Jewish visitors who are suspected of being “religious” and make sure they don’t dare, heaven forbid, to whisper words of prayer. This inconceivable disgrace is occurring with a “national” government ruling in Israel.

After some 52 years of banning Jewish ritual – one of the major reasons for the Arabs’ self-confidence, as they bite off more and more chunks of sovereignty on the Temple Mount – it’s time to equalize the Jews’ prayer rights to that of the Arabs, as is customary in the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Will the Arabs respond with an uprising? Let them. In Hebron, after they realized the government wouldn’t give in, they gave in. So they will in Jerusalem as well. And if they don’t give in? Let them strike as they did in the Great Arab Revolt. The British regime didn’t give in and they had to cave in after their economy collapsed and their society was torn apart.

Had Netanyahu’s government acted with adequate assertiveness, much of the suffering and many of the victims, Arabs too, could have been spared on the Temple Mount, in the south and every other place where our sovereignty is defied. It’s time the government conducts a policy whereby the enemy is the one forced to cave in – not us, as is customary, to our national disgrace, during the long days of Netanyahu’s rule.