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The attempts to degrade Israel’s Temple Mount sovereignty - opinion

By Ilan Pomeranc
Photo by: JORDANIAN ROYAL PALACE/REUTERS

After months of focused and protracted public discourse on Israel’s deficiencies in effectively exercising sovereignty over large swaths of its Arab population, a multi-pronged attack on Israel’s sovereignty at the Temple Mount has been launched. It is an attack by way of various means, in line with the hybrid warfare tactics of the Arab leadership in both Gaza and Ramallah, and in cooperation with Arab political parties in Israel as well as the Jordanian government.

The attack is part of a repetitive ritual that Israel has had to contend with in recent years. Specifically, during the three Jerusalem pilgrimage festivals, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, as well as on Jerusalem Day, when Israel celebrates the modern-day liberation of the city. It is precisely those millennia-old manifestations of Israel’s fundamental interrelation with its capital and the Temple Mount – and its unprecedented reaffirmation with the site’s liberation – that threaten our enemies’ falsehoods and designs on the city. The ritual begins with grotesque and antisemitic incitement, amplified by the advent of social media and smartphones saturating an even more easily accessible mass audience.

That incitement is coupled with gratuitous and frenzied warnings of impending damage or destruction to al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine by Israel (made all the more ironic and hypocritical by the Islamic Waqf and Arab rioters continued damage and destruction of archaeological strata and artifacts on the Temple Mount from throughout Jerusalem’s history; as well damage done to the present-day structures by way of stockpiling and deploying stones, fireworks, and light arms). The next stage are threats that are followed by a violent provocation that the forces hostile to Israel know will be ignored or quickly forgotten by the international community and the media. In many cases, unfortunately, among certain Israeli media as well.

The provocation as Passover approached was rioting on the Temple Mount and a hail of stones thrown down at worshipers and visitors to the Western Wall from the mount. Israel is then forced to intervene to prevent bodily harm and material damage to the holy sites, its citizens, visitors, in addition to having to ensure freedom of worship on the Temple Mount itself, as rioters disrupted religious activity at al-Aqsa Mosque and general access to the mount. And so, the other side has the spark it needs to create an artificial chain of events, false narrative and media maelstrom.

THIS RITUAL made-to-order crisis, came on the heels of deadly Arab terror attacks throughout Israel in March and early April, which have not abated. The rites of the ritual then proceed with Israel being portrayed by Hamas, Ramallah authorities, Israeli Arab politicians, and the Jordanian Government, as doing exactly what they had warned about – “raided” the Temple Mount, “desecrated” a Muslim holy site and changed the so-called “status quo.” This libel is then peddled by antisemites across the globe under the guise of disingenuous criticism of Israel. Israel is – predictably – accused of being solely responsible for all that transpired.

 An Israeli security officer looks on at Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

In an aggressive attempt to capitalize on the current situation, the Jordanian government now seeks to outright challenge Israel’s sovereignty and governance over the Temple Mount. The Jordanians have reached out and tried to recruit the United States to the effort, with the king planning to travel to Washington. Disturbingly and unprecedentedly, they also have the vocal support and partnership of a member of Israel’s governing coalition government. Head of the Ra’am party Mansour Abbas released – just in the last few days – a statement declaring Jordan as the party that will decide what happens on the Temple Mount.

One of the Jordanians’ and their partners’ immediate goals on the ground is a de facto ban on non-Muslim visitors to the site and an increase of Jordanian personnel there. As of now, the Israeli government has refused such an increase.

Not to be outdone, Mahmoud Abbas and company released bellicose statements at the start of this week denying Israeli sovereignty and historic rights to its ancient capital and calling for the city to be divided, returning it to the brief but dangerous situation that existed between Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1967. This was a period when the Nation of Israel was denied access to the Old City, the Western Wall and, of course, the Temple Mount, and those in our Diaspora, foreign citizens, were severely limited from accessing the sites if at all.

From the beginning of its term, the Bennett-Lapid government’s missteps in relation to Jordan and Mahmoud Abbas make the current assault on Israel’s sovereignty over the Temple Mount, and the Old City of Jerusalem itself, all the more frustrating and incredulous. Defense Minister Benny Gantz hosted Mahmoud Abbas for coffee and pastries in a warm atmosphere at his private home, and a cavalcade of high-ranking Israeli officials have made pilgrimages to King Abdullah II of Jordan, while he chose only to visit Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah (at least publicly). The king and Abbas were returned to center stage by the current Israeli government and have been dealt with in a way reminiscent of the flawed posture and the failed policies of the left-wing governments of the 1990’s, and the latter years of the Olmert government.

FOR THE Hashemite Royal House, the misguided policies of the current Israeli government could not have come at a more opportune time. The Jordanians’ status in the region and its religious administrative role at the Islamic sites in Jerusalem were viewed as weakened in the months preceding the new Israeli government taking power. The King has also begun to actively position his son Crown Prince Hussein as his successor in recent years, a sensitive process, as evidenced by the “coup plot” that the King’s half-brother Hamza was accused of a year ago. The King and the royal family can now rally support by portraying themselves as defending Muslim holy sites by way of a contrived confrontation with the popularly despised Israel.

In contrast, the previous Netanyahu-led government, building on the momentum of the Abraham Accords and intra-Arab interests, had successfully sidelined Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s anti-Israel public diplomacy and rhetoric. At the time, social media out of the Gulf region had an increase in content about how Israel not only has legitimate sovereignty and rights in Jerusalem but how Israel’s history and its relationship to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are fact and corroborated by the Koran and Arab sources from the period of Islam’s rise.

This was also joined by calls from similar sources for more focus in the Arab and Islamic world on the holier sites to Islam, Mecca and Medina, and Saudi Arabia’s historic protection and administration of both. Hints were also being made and reported at the time about Saudi Arabia possibly taking on some type of responsibility for al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The implication was that if it did not outright replace Jordan, at least Jordan’s role would be reduced while also preventing the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey from gaining influence at the sites.

The current Israeli government seems to have squandered a potential opportunity for positive changes to the dynamic on the Temple Mount. A major reduction in the use of the “al-Aqsa is in danger” lie in attempts to undermine Israeli sovereignty could very well have been possible if the momentum of the Abraham Accords was maintained and increased and old paradigms about the situation in Judea and Samaria and Gaza avoided.

A free democratic and sovereign nation state cannot allow for the formation of a “no-go zone” anywhere on its territory let alone at the nation’s central national-historic site which is also its holiest. A nation cannot artificially detach itself from 3000 years of history, national identity and veneration. Could anyone fathom a Beijing with no forbidden city, an Athens with no Acropolis, a London with no Westminster Abbey, a Rome with no Forum?

The nation of Israel’s history at and identification with the Temple Mount is longer and more ancient than all those examples. It must exercise its sovereignty accordingly. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Atheists, and anyone else for that matter, can – under Israel’s sovereignty – visit the Old City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The same must become increasingly true for the Temple Mount without exception.

The writer is an Israeli hi-tech entrepreneur and a member of the Israel Leadership Forum. He is involved with various Israel advocacy causes including working with Christian Zionist and pro-Israel Noahide groups.

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Dive Deeper:
Stop Jordan’s false claims of control in Jerusalem - opinion
It doesn’t have custodianship over Muslim and Christian holy sites.
Jordan is key to deepening Abraham Accords, calming West Bank - opinion
Israelis and Jordanians no longer hide their willingness to cooperate, but King Abdullah’s complex internal situation and mounting tensions at…
Hamas calls for mass Nakba Day ascent to Temple Mount
Sunday marks both Nakba Day and Pesach Sheni (Second Passover), and both Hamas and Jewish Temple Mount activist organizations called…
Experts laud US recognition of Jordanian responsibility for Temple Mount
US President Joe Biden confirmed that the US sees Jordan as the custodian of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem and…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Palestinian man dies of head wound from Jerusalem violence last month
A 21-year-old Palestinian man has died from a head wound sustained last month as Israeli police fired rubber bullets at…
Biden reaffirms Jordan's role overseeing Temple Mount
President Joe Biden is reaffirming his administration’s support for Jordan’s long-running role as the custodian of Muslim holy sites at…
Get all your news in one place