“I will respect the Prime Minister’s instruction that Knesset members do not visit the Temple Mount,” Yehuda Glick stated following his election to the Knesset. It is understandable that Glick poses a statesman-like image — if only to correct the image of the grassroots rabble rouser demanding that the police allow Jews their rights to visit the Temple Mount.
The image of Temple Mount activists as ‘extreme,’ ‘fundamentalist.’ ‘provocateurs,’ negates the image of normalcy and basic rights of those seeking to strengthen Jewish connections to the Mount. The 2014 assassination attempt on Glick’s life indeed corrected the image, albeit briefly. A human rights activist — including, for example, supporting Ya’alon’s position in the case of the affair of the soldier who killed the Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, as well as to build relations with Arabs — makes the Temple theme for Glick also a question of human rights.
But Glick’s chances of making political change through the Knesset are most limited given that Israel’s is an executive democracy in which the government has an inflated influence over the legislature and judiciary in contrast to, say, the American system, where, as reflected in the current period, Congress is Republican-dominated whereas the government is Democrat.
Given the mindset of successive Israeli governments not to recognize in practice Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, the chances of political change are low. And, while there have been some 50 petitions over the years before the Israeli courts regarding Jewish rights on the Temple, the courts overwhelmingly have been inclined to accede to police fears all in the name of preserving law and order.
But precisely because of this, Glick has his work cut out — whether in questions from the podium of the Knesset or in committee. Glick would do well to continue the work of MK Miri Regev in the Interior Committee to call the Israeli Police to account for its behavior on the Mount. No doubt, Glick will deploy his persuasive talents also in the corridors of the legislature to change politicians’ attitudes.
Yet another front for Glick is the international one, in Israeli-Jordanian relations. Despite the fact that relations with Israel are of supreme strategic import to the Hashemite kingdom, the Netanyahu Government has turned the Temple Mount from a cardinal interest to being a chip up for negotiation for materialistic gains. Jewish rights have in effect been offered up on the altar of diplomatic, defense and economic interests with Rabat Amman.
Clearly, private members bills offer Glick an important channel for generating Temple consciousness. But correcting the arrangements for Jewish visits to the Temple Mount should be the first rather than the last objective of the fresh Knesset member. This includes using the law-making chamber, for example, to legislate the cancellation of the decision in the wake of the 1967 war of Defense Minister Moshe Dayan that the Jews should be satisfied with the Kotel and the Muslims receive exclusive sole prayer rights on the Temple Mount. Even moderate rabbis today like Haifa Chief Rabbi Shaar Yashuv Cohen have spoken for the need for prayer facilities on the Mount.
And if so, what about such other religious acts which may be performed in the absence of a Temple building? Back in 1968 the request of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to the Israeli government to allow the slaughtering of the traditional paschal lamb on Passover fell on deaf ears. Inevitably, no Jewish believer can ignore the fact that such questions as Jewish visits to the Mount and prayer rights pale into insignificance compared to the cardinal issue of the ultimate building of the Temple. Nobody who reads the Bible can ignore the central place which Temple life occupies in Jewish religious identity.
It is early days for the new Knesset member. Political change is incremental — particularly given the anti-Temple Mount mindset in the Israeli elite. At least he will make respectable what others in the Knesset feel inhibited or even ashamed to raise.