Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Who Rules the Temple Mount?

As we all know, the (in)famous June 1967 arrangement of Moshe Dayan, then Defense Minister, the "status quo", set a policy that while Israel asserted sovereignty over the site, the practical day-to-day administration is in the hands of the Waqf.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expanded on that, in a statement that explicitly downgraded the status of Jews there when he declared

“Israel reaffirms its commitment to upholding unchanged the status quo of the Temple Mount, in word and in practice. Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount.”

That was in late October 2015. It was thought that those words were said to placate Jordan's King Abdullah and US Secretary of State John Kerry as part of the failed surveillance camera deal.  The cameras were never affixed and neither the US or Jordan paid for that whereas that statement was a significant yielding up of rights which until then had never been so starkly spelled out.

In that connection, it has been pointed out that the next attempt to assure security at the site but also to collect proof who initiated the violence, who had stored weapons of various sorts in the mosques and who was cooperating with terrorists and rabble-rousers which was the metal detectors of summer 2017, was foiled because:
the Palestinian and Muslim discourse the central issue is the need to combat what they believe to be guiding the Israeli policy, namely, the Jewish (or Zionist or settler) effort to take over the holy compound that includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and to destroy the mosque and the Dome of the Rock so as to turn the Temple Mount into a place of Jewish prayer. Hence, the Palestinians and the Muslims did not see the installation of the metal detectors as a measure to improve security, but instead, as an obvious way to prepare the groundwork for changing the status quo and thereby advancing the objective that they ascribe to the Jews.

Before then we had statements such as these regarding the nature of the "status quo":

Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said on Thursday: “At last night’s security consultation, the prime minister made it clear that there will be no change in the status quo on the Temple Mount and that whoever expresses a different opinion is presenting a personal view and not the policy of the government.”

Regev said Netanyahu had made the comment at a meeting with security officials late on Wednesday. 

That was in November 2014.  The headline interpreted Netanyahu:

Binyamin Netanyahu rejects calls to let Jews pray at Jerusalem holy site

As Nadav Shragai wrote, it was obvious by then that

the old status quo has been greatly degraded, increasing Muslim control and status on the Mount and greatly undermining the status of Jews and the State of Israel on the Mount.

How degraded has it become?

This past Holocaust Day fell on a Thursday and according to the standing arrangements, Jews and other non-Muslim tourists should have been able to enter the holy compound. But they couldn't because of a Muslim holiday (I discussed that in detail here). But what was clear was that the Palestinian Authority celebrated that holiday on Thursday night-Friday and so the Mount should have been open, at least for morning visiting hours.

A letter from the Israel Police received by Michael Puah who complained explains the situation. The holiday was celebrated on Thursday in Jordan and so, the Temple Mount was closed to all non-Muslims:

If my understanding is correct, the Temple Mount basically is Jordanian property which Israel simply guards and assures that its Muslim status remains supreme and primary. Jordan customs are to be taken into consideration above all other regimes, including the Palestinian Authority (I presume because of the March 2013 agreement) and, of course, that of Israel. That agreement reads in the preamble of:

The continuity of Hashemite King of Jordan's custodianship of the holy sites since 1924 makes His Majesty more able to maintain the holy sites and to preserve Al Masjid Al Aqsa (Al Haram Al Sharif)

Jordan rules and pushes anti-Israel resolutions in such international bodies as UNESCO.

Jordan also is a signatory to a peace treaty with Israel which states in Article 9 that it will:

provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance...promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.

That has never happened.  And Israel has never, to my knowledge, complained about Jordanian moves on the matter.

Jordan rules.


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