A Timeline and Perspective of the Temple Mount Crisis
by Sarah Ann Haves
It seems that during the long hot summer months, when Palestinian youth are on summer vacation with nothing to do; when the weather is boiling and tempers are too; that a conflagration with Israel can occur. Usually, something spurs it on, and the Palestinian Authority, headed up by President Mahmoud Abbas, exploits the incident and further encourages an uproar through incitement.
In this case, Abbas was not getting very far in moving the Palestinian cause forward on the international front. He had not accomplished much in his political relations with America’s new President Donald Trump. The U.S. Congress was focused on diminishing aid to the Palestinians because of the insistence on the part of Abbas to continue payments of salaries to convicted terrorists and their families. His diplomatic favor was also declining at the UN, with U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley in place to condemn all unfair Palestinian actions against Israel at UNESCO and other UN agencies. So, while he did not instigate the Temple Mount violence, Abbas also did not stop the escalations in tensions afterwards.
To understand the crisis and the complications that fueled it, a timeline helps for strategic analysis.
Friday, July 14, 2017, three Israeli Arab terrorists from the Islamic town of Um-El-Fahm made their way to Jerusalem and killed two Israeli Druze Border Policemen at the Temple Mount compound. Jerusalem, “the city of peace” became a city of terror and bloodshed.
The terrorist attack which was supported by the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s Islamic Movement (though Abbas later condemned it), was meant to challenge Israel’s Jewish control of the holy site. The desire to erase any Jewish ties or sovereignty over the area where Israel’s two Holy Temples once stood, was meant to affirm Moslem control over the site. The terrorist attack comes on the heels of a recent UNESCO decision, which left out the Israeli and Jewish connection to the holy places in Jerusalem.
Violent incidents in Jerusalem around the Temple Mount have occurred before, used by the Palestinians to encourage incitement through terrorism. This recent attack further undermined the stability of Israel in its relations with Jordan, because the WAQF, Jordan’s Islamic Trust that manages the site, did nothing to prevent the terrorist attack.
According to a set of rules referring to state affairs, Israel controls access to the Temple Mount compound, responsible for security along its perimeters. The Jordanian WAQF is responsible for the security situation inside the Temple Mount area.
|There is almost no
tolerance for Jews
visiting the [Temple] site.
However, the WAQF, as well as most Palestinians, claim the site is under Israeli “occupation,” and that armed Israeli guards suppress their people from freely exercising their complete authority over the Temple Mount. They see the Israeli police and army as having no legitimacy over what the Moslems consider to be their sacred place of worship. There is almost a no tolerance policy for Jews visiting the site, most of whom have to be accompanied by special Israeli police guards to protect them from irate Moslems. No Jews can pray at the site. Neither can Christians.
After the attack, on Friday, the Israeli police closed off the Temple Mount compound until Sunday morning July 16, looking for weapons that had been used by the terrorists. Reportedly, they found knives in the area along with the Carl Gustav-style submachine guns and handguns that the terrorists killed the border guards with.
The Al-Aksa mosque has been used before as an armory, where Moslems stored weapons in preparation for future attacks against Israel. This time, the Israeli police were not forthcoming in how many weapons they saw and/or confiscated within the mosque or around the Temple Mount. But, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that security arrangements had to be changed because the terrorists crossed Israel’s “red line” once they decided to desecrate the site using automatic weapons.
On Sunday, directed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the police put up metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount to prevent more firearms from being smuggled into the compound. The WAQF saw this as an attempt to undermine their authority over activities at the site. As a result, they and other Islamic officials, refused to go up on the Mount and banned all Moslems worshippers from doing the same. The Chairman of the WAQF Trust, the Mufti of Jerusalem, and the Chairman of the Higher Islamic Council all claimed it was Israel’s attempt to severely violate the status quo, which Netanyahu profusely denied.
Monday, July 17 was the second day of demonstrations by Moslems in Jerusalem. They were, again, instructed by the WAQF to pray outside of the Temple Mount area. Jewish worshippers took advantage of the situation. They entered the compound and said the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer for the border police officers. This was a unique and unusual occurrence, as Jews are always banned from saying prayers at the site. Other Jews followed suit during the next few days, freely visiting the Temple Mount accompanied by police who guarded them on tour. Meanwhile the Moslems demonstrated in Old City riots and on the streets of Jerusalem.
As tensions continued to escalate, Abbas decided to cut all security ties with Israel until it dismantled the metal detectors. International efforts began, with the United States getting involved, sending its envoys to the Middle East to talk with authorities in Israel, Egypt and Jordan, in order to find a way to end the crisis. Israel’s cabinet met in late night sessions in an effort to provide Israeli citizens with security while, at the same time, figuring out a way to stop the increased violence.
Then, on Friday night, July 21, in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, a Palestinian terrorist entered the home of a Jewish family having a Shabbat dinner. He killed Yosef Salomon, his daughter Chaya, and his son Elad, and seriously wounded Yosef’s wife, Tova. The terrorist was shot by a neighbor, and while recovering from his injuries in an Israeli hospital, the attacker claimed he committed the act of terror because of the violence against Palestinians in the Temple Mount incident. This further escalated the crisis between the Palestinians and Israel, as Arabs celebrated in the streets after the hideous murders.
Escalating the tensions even further, on Sunday, July 23, an Israeli security guard in the Israeli Embassy in Jordan was attacked by a teenage terrorist with a screwdriver. In self-defense the security guard killed the terrorist, and accidently wounded a Jordanian passing by, who later died of his wounds. Jordan’s King Abdullah II was already engrossed in deep discussions with United States leaders in what he termed as efforts to stop the “Judaization of holy sites.” Now, he wanted to keep the security guard in Jordan to stand trial. Israel’s Foreign Ministry entered into immediate negotiations with Jordan, declaring there were international laws of immunity for the security guard and the Israeli diplomatic staff, but Jordan refused to release them. In what appeared to be a late night agreement between Abdullah and Netanyahu, the King relented, released the Israeli embassy staff, and they were able to return home to Israel. While Israel has denied that there was any deal, it appears that the diplomatic agreement was in exchange for Netanyahu not only removing the metal detectors from the Temple Mount, but also cameras that had been installed there. Both countries denied any connection between the diplomatic incident and the concessions on Israel’s part.
On Monday, July 24, the Israeli embassy staff was embraced by a smiling Netanyahu, who greeted them warmly. This further angered the Jordanians who accused Netanyahu of treating the Israeli security guard as a “hero”.
However, an embattled Netanyahu had to show some success in his critical negotiations with Jordan. He had no leverage and little choice in the diplomatic crisis. In order to get the Israeli embassy staff home safely, he had to agree to Jordan’s terms. But, a majority of Israelis felt he had conceded too quickly to Jordanian demands to remove the metal detectors and cameras. While facing sharp criticism on the home front, Netanyahu also continued to face sharp criticism in Jordan. The Jordanian Parliament, angered that two Jordanians were killed by an Israeli, threatened to bring the matter to an international court. King Abdullah demanded that the security guard stand trial in Israel or be extradited to Jordan. For the Jordanian government, saving face is of absolute importance, and Jordanians will resist and reject any attempts to humiliate and weaken their resolve as a nation.
Today, Israel views the crisis with Jordan as a serious matter. The Israeli government sees Jordan as a strategic partner and wants to preserve the peace treaty. They work in close coordination with the Jordanian government when it comes to intelligence, security and military cooperation. Tactically, Jordan helps control terrorists from entering Israel’s Jordan Valley. Jordan’s airfields have been used by the United States to hit ISIS positions in Syria. A U.S. base remains in a Bedouin region of Jordan where radical Sunni Moslems have had an influence on tribes there. Jordan’s close proximity to Iraq is a problem, where radical Shiites are operating on Jordan’s eastern border.
The influence of ISIS to try and produce instability in Jordan presents another serious problem. The fundamentalist Moslem Brotherhood, which is the main political opposition in Jordan, could also contribute to instability in the country, especially when it comes to the delicate balance of power that King Abdullah’s monarchy carries within the local Jordanian population. The Brotherhood claims that handing over the Israeli security guard was an affront to national Jordanian sovereignty. Tribes that are now loyal to King Abdullah could eventually resist him and topple his government due to pressure from opposition forces operating inside the country.
|Arab nations that have
developed warmer relations with
Israel are watching closely.
Arab nations that have developed warmer ties with Israel have been looking closely at the crisis in Jerusalem as they do not want to experience any backlash over the Temple Mount incident. Future angry reactions on Arab streets throughout the region could undermine the rule of Arab governments, and therefore cause greater instability. These governments have also taken notice of Israel’s declining relations with Jordan — a country that maintains a peace treaty with Israel along with Egypt.
Furthermore, within six months, Israel will be looking to quietly incorporate security measures, based on advanced technologies, in place of metal detectors on the Mount. These will be implemented to insure the security of Israeli citizens, as well as visitors who want to go up on the Temple Mount. The new plan, which will cost approximately $29 million dollars, could further stir Palestinian aggressions once they see the new measures being implemented.
The 9th of Av in this calendar year has now ended. During the month of July, which coincided with the time of the Dire Straits, Israel experienced one violent event following on the heels of another. This time period comes with memories of some of the most disastrous events recorded in Jewish history, including the destruction of the First and Second Temples, the Babylonian exile, and other catastrophes that have happened to the Jewish People.
But, Israel, itself, has also contributed to its own hardships, which now appear to have stirred up controversy for the Jewish State in terms of its sovereignty over Jerusalem.
In June 1967, Israel conquered Jerusalem and re-united the Old City, taking it out of the hands of Jordanian control. For one week, reports indicate that Israeli rabbis prayed on the Temple Mount before Israeli government leader Moshe Dayan ordered them to stop and remove themselves from the site. He then gave the keys back to the Jordanian WAQF to maintain control of the Temple Mount. That one act, which he did out of fear that there would be a Middle East holy war otherwise, has continued to be an open door for the Arabs to reject Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. The Palestinians reject the historic and religious attachment of the Jewish People to the Temple Mount. In every forum possible, they deny that there was a Jewish Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Moslems, today, insist that the place is holy to them only.
While Palestinian initiatives continue to undermine Israel’s security, Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have used the Temple Mount violence as a way to narrow the gap and build a closer relationship with Israeli Arabs living in the West Bank and in central Israel. Many of the Israeli Arabs in the town of Umm el-Fahm, known as a stronghold for the Islamic Movement, believe the Al-Aksa mosque is in danger of an Israeli takeover. Therefore, they easily engage in the stirring of Palestinian incitement. This helps the Palestinians further strengthen Moslem ties to the Al-Aksa mosque, uniting all Arabs in their effort to free themselves from Israeli “occupation”. Along with Hamas, the Palestinians are trying to build a sense of Palestinian nationalism throughout Israel and surrounding areas, in what they see as their just cause in seizing Israeli land.
More and more Israeli Jews, angered by the humiliation of conceding to the Moslems on Temple Mount matters of control, are religiously preparing to visit the holy site. In a new and unusual move, Israel’s rabbis are encouraging their participation. At least 1,500 Jews visited the Mount within days of the murder of the border guards… an increase of double the amount of visitors prior to the violence. Jewish visits to the Temple Mount had already increased by 15% this year. On the 9th of Av, a record 1,300 Jewish people visited the Temple Mount.
It’s a testimony of Jewish resolve in the face of hatred and murder, as the God of Israel stands by His people protecting and guarding their security and welfare in His holy city, Jerusalem.
“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.” Isaiah 2:2
(c) 2017 Messianic Vision all rights reserved. This article is not reproducible except with permisson from Messianic Vision.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.