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KERRY TO THE RESCUE OF TEMPLE MOUNT

For the first time in several months, thousands of Muslims have prayed peacefully on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

Muslim prayer at al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount (photo credit: iTravelJerusalem)

 While there was sporadic Palestinian rioting elsewhere, U.S. Secretary John Kerry's mission to Amman has succeeded so far in dousing the flames that threatened to ignite a third Palestinian intifada (uprising). Credit where credit is due, and this time hats off to Kerry. Meeting first with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and then together with Israel's Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah, Secretary Kerry was able to persuade the sides to take 'constructive steps, real steps, not rhetoric to de-escalate the situation'.

PM Netanyahu with Secretary Kery

 Netanyahu responded on the spot by lifting restrictions on young Muslims from attending Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa mosque. (They are considered hotheads who have repeatedly stones Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below the Temple Mount). For his part, Abbas toned down his incitement against Israel after he had declared previously that that Jews have no right to even visit the Temple Mount and their very presence 'defiled' the site. This time, Abbas told Kerry that he would do everything possible to prevent violence and change the climate. It was no surprise that Jordan's King Abdullah hosted the peace parleys. With the Islamic State Jihadists threatening his kingdom from neighboring Iraq, Abdullah is caught in a double bind - on one hand Jordan followed Egypt in signing a peace treaty with Israel, which is now his strongest strategic ally in the region. As part of the peace treaty, he has a special role as custodian of Muslim rights on the Temple Mount. Moreover, Jordan is home to a Palestinian majority. In order to placate his Palestinian citizens, Abdullah summoned his ambassador back to Amman in protest over the Israeli-Palestinian conflagration.

 

Defense Minister Moshe Dayan decided that Muslims would be allowed to continue praying at the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, while Jews ... would be allowed the visit, but not to pray.

 What happens now? Hopefully after going to the brink, Netanyahu and Abbas will be able to reign in religious fanatics on both sides when it comes to the flashpoint of Temple Mount. For his part, the Israeli leader has repeatedly declared there has not been, nor will there be, any change to the existing status quo that has prevailed since the IDF liberated east Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967. In the Six Day War, Jordan actually joined in the pan-Arab threat to 'throw the Jews into the sea'. At the end of the war, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan decided that Muslims would be allowed to continue praying at the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, while Jews, for the first time, would be allowed the visit, but not to pray. Dayan was persuaded that this would trigger a bitter religious conflict with the Muslim world.

 

Uri Ariel of Jewish Home party

 Back in 1967, nearly all the rabbis forbad Jews from praying on the Temple mount for religious reasons. (Various reasons have been cited: the Temple Mount could only be rebuilt and consecrated with the coming of the Messiah and the presence of the Muslim mosque had desecrated the site of the Jewish Temple). However, since then there is a growing number of nationalistic religious Jews who now demand prayer there. This has sparked a sharp reaction by Muslim leaders who charge that the Jews are now plotting to pray there and eventually destroy the al-Aqsa mosque. Israel's Prime Minister has repeatedly denied it, but several coalition Knesset members have paid demonstrative visits to the Temple Mount, and Housing Minister Uri Ariel has declared the status quo must be altered to allow Jews to pray there. The moving in of six Jewish families in the predominately Arab quarter of Silwan, and the Israeli announcements of new housing projects beyond the old 67’ lines in Jerusalem have also poured fuel on the flames.

 

Second Temple (photo credit: Ariely - Wikimedia Commons)

 On the other hand, Netanyahu has been hauled over the coals by Jewish nationalists for preserving the rights of all worshippers in Jerusalem, except for those Jews who wish to pray at the site of the ancient Jewish Temples. When it comes to the religious issue, these Jews do have a case. They have not spoken about driving Muslims off the Temple Mount - they are only contending that they should also be allowed to pray there. The Palestinian response has been one of terrorism; six Jews have been deliberately run over or stabbed to death in recent weeks, and add on the Abbas incitement.

 

 Political pyromaniacs…

 

Cabinet Minister Ariel and the MK’s from the Likud and Jewish Home parties are no less than political pyromaniacs when they stir up trouble over the Temple Mount.

 Although it stands to reason that religious Jews should be permitted to exercise their religious right to pray on the Temple Mount, the Palestinians won't hear of it. But on this point the confrontation is so volatile that would it not be wiser for Israel to be smart and back off rather than risk a religious confrontation with the 1.3 billion Muslims around the world? Netanyahu and almost the entire Israeli government, including hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, support the existing status quo, and have castigated what is a rash and reckless campaign by Jewish religious fanatics. Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, speaking at the funeral of a Jewish victim, also condemned the attempt by Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. Cabinet Minister Ariel and the MK’s from the Likud and Jewish Home parties are no less than political pyromaniacs when they stir up trouble over the Temple Mount.

 

 

 

 

 David Essing

 

 

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