This morning Israelis awoke to the news that Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, has issued a ban on all government ministers and Knesset members from ascending the Temple Mount.
This ban will not be permanent. It will be rescinded by this government or another. And when the ban is lifted, Islamist inciters will claim that Israel has changed the status quo.
That is precisely what is happening now. For the past several years, at the onset of the Jewish festivals of Sukkot and Pesach, when radical Islamist groups knew that large numbers of Israelis are on vacation and many hundreds would be coming to the Temple Mount, a “spontaneous” demonstration would erupt. The police response would invariably be to close the Mount to Jews. This gave the Islamists a sense of control over the Mount.
Similarly, a few years ago, the police began allowing Islamist protesters to come within throwing, striking and spitting distance of Jewish visitors to the Mount. The Islamists were allowed to hurl curses and worse, while the Jews were rushed off the Mount. Again, this newfound permission to harass Jews and chase them off the Mount gave the Islamists a sense of power and control.
A few weeks ago, all this changed. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon banned the Murabitun and Murabatat (paid Islamist protesters) from the Temple Mount. Similarly, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan declared that Muslim rioting would not stop Jews from visiting the Temple Mount.
These new policies (which were actually a return to what had existed before) were decried as an infringement upon the status quo and used as a pretext for the terror spree we are currently enduring. Just before he carried out his murderous attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, Mohammed Halabi made this post to his facebook account:
“The Third Intifada has begun. What’s happening to our holy places, what’s happening to our mothers and sisters in al-Aqsa mosque? We are not the people who accept humiliation. Our people will revolt.”
Like it or not, it always comes back to the Temple Mount. Always has, always will. Successive governments have repeatedly made the mistake of viewing the Temple Mount as something that, if removed from the picture, would sort of diffuse tensions. But the Temple Mount isn’t going anywhere, and by weakening the Israeli position on the mount, we embolden the Islamists and give them a sense of entitlement.
Today’s Temple Mount ban on ministers and MKs will be seen by radical Islamists as a victory won by striking fear into the hearts of Israelis, a source of nationalist pride. When the ban is lifted, they will see it as a humiliation and a declaration of war.
We ban Jews, we permit Jews. We ban MK’s and ministers, we permit them, we allow Islamist harassment, we don’t allow it. We are sending mixed signals instead of a clear and consistent position.
The only solution that will bring eventual, relative quiet, is a system of Jewish and Muslim shared custodianship, based on the arrangement at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. There will be an initial backlash and yes, bloodshed, but the Islamists and the world at large will eventually get used to it. The sky will not fall.