Temple Mount Is the Issue, Not Terror

Netanyahu must show seriousness about the Temple Mount’s status quo, or bring in observers – Palestinian or international – to monitor the site.

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Israeli policemen prevent a Palestinian women from entering the Temple Mount, September 14, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a change in policy Friday in response to terrorism in Jerusalem and the northern West Bank. As part of the new policy, the demolition of terrorists’ homes will be expedited, the number of detentions without trial will be increased, instigators will be arrested and banned from relevant neighborhoods, and security forces will be beefed up in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

But this policy isn’t new. The announcement is almost an exact replica of the one Netanyahu made after the attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem last November, when four worshippers and a policeman were killed. Then too he ordered house demolitions, a ramping-up of security forces and the arrest of instigators. Then too he called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the main culprit.

The violent year since, especially the last two terrorist attacks that killed the Henkin couple in the West Bank and Aharon Bennett and Nehemia Lavi in Jerusalem, prove how useless and illogical Netanyahu’s policies are. They are marked by a heavy hand against the innocent, beefed-up security forces waiting for an attacker to pop up, and hollow threats against imaginary “instigators” who ostensibly pull the strings of a hidden terror network. But Netanyahu and the other right-wing spokesmen know full well there are no strings and no networks.

It cannot be denied that there is incitement in Palestinian society and that young people who launch terror attacks are influenced by it, especially regarding the Temple Mount. But this is popular incitement that exists mainly on the social networks.

The terrorists don’t wait for Abbas’ speeches at the UN General Assembly to go into action, nor are they deterred by the threat of a new settlement or a change in the rules of engagement, as Education Minister Naftali Bennett has proposed. Experience shows that even the threat of death doesn't stop them. The fact is, to this day none of Israel’s actions has helped; it seems they have only made the situation worse.

Moreover, Bennett and Lavi were murdered in one of the best-protected places in Israel, Hagai Street, which crosses the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. Dozens of police, Border Police and civilian security guards patrol this street day and night, and countless security cameras are deployed, linked to the Mabat 2000 system, one of the most advanced monitoring systems in Israel. But none of these efforts were any good against a 19-year-old with a knife.

Netanyahu must take steps like showing seriousness about maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount, or like bringing in observers – Palestinian or international, in uniform or plainclothed – to the site. But Netanyahu won’t be the leader to extricate Israel from its diplomatic stalemate and stop the occupation – which is the only way to achieve calm, reduce terror and produce a normal future for Israelis.