De facto, what is happening, and de jure, what is legal, don’t always run together. And after a long time, de facto beats de jure. What’s a long time at the Temple Mount?

When I was a child in the US, to assert de jure ownership, the railroad running near our house closed crossings one day a year. Some owners of land that people used for picnics also closed access periodically. Unless this is done, after some years, the ownership claim can be challenged.

Israel’s de jure claim on the Temple Mount, in place since 1967, has not been endorsed by the rest of the world. From the start, Israel weakened its claim by giving de facto control of the top of the Mount to the Wakf. In the 49 years since, Israel has done nothing to assert its claim, nor anything to weaken that of the Wakf. This circumstance is near unbelievable from outside Israel, particularly in view of the large number of lawyers in Israel. Olmert’s 2006 offer to share the Mount has seriously further weakened Israel’s claim. The Wakf, however, has not been immobile, and the current news that Jordan is installing cameras on the Mount will likely solidify world opinion that the Mount does not belong to Israel.

It may be that it is already too late for Israel to recapture its control. Certainly, if it is inclined to keep the Mount, then it should deny this move by Jordan. Shutting down the Mount for a few days at this late juncture is a hazardous act and the size of the hazard simply underscores the problem Israel will have it seeks a public demonstration of ownership.