Religious violence has, once again, paid off. That is the main take-away from the latest Temple Mount crisis.
The need to conduct security checks, and prevent the smuggling of weapons or explosives into such a sensitive site, should be self-evident. It is ludicrous to view metal detectors as a threat to freedom of Islamic worship, or a change to the status quo at the holy site.
Nevertheless, the defense establishment of Israel recommended removing the metal detectors, which were installed at the Temple Mount following the deadly shooting of two Israeli police officers by a terrorist cell there.
This recommendation carries some real risks.
Another attack could occur at the Temple Mount, and it could be much worse than the previous one. An ISIS suicide bomber, could, for example, decide to blow himself up at the Al Aqsa Mosque, in a bid to spread chaos throughout the Middle East.
So why did the Israeli defense establishment still recommend getting rid of the metal detectors? The answer lies in the wider strategic view that guides the defense chiefs.
Right now, Israel’s enemies across the Middle East are busy fighting one another. Israel remains outside of the combat arenas.
A provocation at the Temple Mount can fuel radical elements here though, who will try to exploit the issue to generate Islamic unity around the goal of fighting Israel.
In the wider perspective, Israel’s interest is not to enter into a new conflict. Israel has no interest in uniting the Islamic world against it.
Additionally, such incidents place King Abdullah II of Jordan in a difficult situation. It is safe to assume that his message to Israel is that he has sufficient domestic problems to deal with, and that Israel is undermining his control of the kingdom.
The threat of the Hashemite Royal Court losing control of Jordan is real. A confrontation with religious overtones can create intense emotions among the Jordanian citizenry, and jeopardize the rule of Jordanian authorities.
Jordan remains a significant ally of Israel, and secures the only quiet border Israel has today. This creates an obligation on Jerusalem to do what it can to calm the situation.
These considerations mean that for the Israeli defense establishment and government, the Temple Mount issue is a battle over sovereignty, which fits into a much larger picture.
It is an important matter, but it is not the only way to look at the situation.
A second approach to the crisis — one that does not fit into the security-based narrative — is based on the importance of Jewish-Israeli sovereignty, and Israel’s right to introduce reasonable security measures.
Only time will tell which narrative should have prevailed, and what price Israel will pay for not upholding sovereignty.
Away from this debate, the Temple Mount crisis also carries with it a warning to the wider Western world. A larger trend is emerging here — one that transcends the local Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Regrettably, it can be summed up under the following headline: Violence pays!
These types of incidents are being judged increasingly not by their own moral merit, but rather, according to the levels of rage Muslim communities generate.
The moment Muslim communities respond to a controversy with rage and violence, the receiving side begins to wonder if it did something wrong.
This is a highly worrisome trend, and it is one that will, with time, become increasingly relevant for European countries today that are home to significant Muslim minorities.
While today in Europe such issues do not appear with the intensity that they do in Jerusalem and the Middle East, as Muslim communities grow, the intensity of controversies in which they take collective offense will grow as well; regardless of what percentage of the broader Muslim community the militant factions constitute.
Sooner or later, the West will need to ask itself if it is willing to live according to the “rage” standard, and whether it is prepared to retreat from all red lines in such a relationship.
The West will have no choice but to formulate a clear strategy in the future to regulate such confrontations. The Temple Mount dynamic is an early warning, alerting the world to such a trend.
Edited by: Yaakov Lappin
Co-edited by: Benjamin Anthony
Notice: The views expressed above do not represent the views of the IDF, the Foreign Ministry or the organization Our Soldiers Speak. They are reflective solely of the views of the author.