With all due respect to General Motta Gur, who famously announced “the Temple Mount is in our hands” when the old city of Jerusalem was captured by the IDF in the Six Day War, that state of affairs was quickly reversed when Moshe Dayan returned control of that hallowed space to the Wakf, and rightfully so. Had the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque remained under Israeli control it isn’t hard to imagine how much worse off we would be holding on to that Islamic holy site, with all its powder keg potential. Though Dayan was roundly criticized for his grand gesture, the wartime unity government, which included opposition leader Menachem Begin, had the good sense to support it.
Yet 50 years later, many Israelis still say it’s in our hands, citing our biblical past. In a modern context, any Jewish Israeli claims to the Temple Mount are delusional. The Dome was built on the site of our beit mikdash in the seventh century AD and, like it or not, has ever since been in Arab hands. We built our temple, the Romans destroyed it, the Arabs built over the ruins. That this sanctuary is sited in the long disputed city of Jerusalem doesn’t make it any less theirs. The international community recognizes the Temple Mount as an Islamic domain. Not to mention that our rabbanut forbids Jews to pray there.
These dynamics stress the failure of our current leadership to forestall the recent Temple Mount crisis, which had enough unstable content to ignite a regional war. The sooner we come to grips with our longstanding real estate dispute and turn down the volume generated by its religious overtones, the sooner we can come to a modus vivendi with the Palestinians that will take into account the real national interests of both parties to the conflict.