Temple Mount? It’s a mound of trouble

July 27, 2017 16:40

When the Israeli soldiers captured the Old City of Jerusalem, Colonel Motta Gur announced “the Temple Mount is in our hands” and one officer entered the Dome of the Rock and flew an Israeli flag from its roof.

Defence Minister Moshe Dayan arrived minutes later and ordered the flag taken down immediately. “What do we need all this Vatican for?” he said to one of his generals, overlooking the churches and mosques of the Old City. He believed Israel should keep out of religious arguments and promised the leaders of the Jordanian-appointed Muslim Wakf they would retain control of the Haram a-Sharif compound.

Israel expressed its sovereignty instead outside Temple Mount, by the last remnant of the Second Temple, a massive limestone retaining wall built in the Herodian period — the Western Wall. An entire neighbourhood by the wall was demolished, its residents evicted with hours’ notice, to make way for the Kotel plaza.

For 50 years, the status quo has remained.

Jews are allowed in to the Temple Mount only a few hours a day, under police supervision, and promptly removed if they begin to pray.

The status quo however has always been unstable. Palestinian politicians have used the symbol of Al Aqsa as a rallying call. The opening of a tunnel beneath the Western Wall in 1996 was construed as ‘the Jews burrowing under Al Aqsa’ and a week of bloody clashes ensued.

In 2000, then leader of opposition Ariel Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount sparked off riots which led to the Second Intifada.

Some Jewish religious groups call for a ‘return to the mount’, though the position of the Chief Rabbinate is that Jews are forbidden to enter by Halakha until the Messiah comes.

Their actions have also caused riots, despite every Israeli prime minister since 1967 sticking to the status quo.

Behind the scenes, there have been political shifts on the Palestinian side.

The Wakf was controlled by the Jordanian Royal court until the 1990s, when Yasser Arafat’s PLO asserted control.

In recent years, the even more radical Israeli Islamic Movement, backed by Hamas, Turkey and Qatar, have increased their influence, leading also to much talk of Jews “defiling Al Aqsa” on social media.

This extreme rhetoric was one of the main factors causing the wave of violence that began in September 2015 and almost certainly radicalised the three young Israeli-Arabs from Umm al-Fahm who killed two police officers at Al Aqsa two weeks ago.


July 27, 2017 16:40

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