“Israel is not the problem on the Temple Mount; Israel is the solution,”Bibi Netanyahu said back in October 2015. “We’re keeping the status quo, we’re the only ones who will do it, and we will continue to do this in a responsible, serious manner.”
Over six months after those tense fall and winter months, when it looked like all was about to unravel under an increasing terror wave from Palestinian radicals, the spring seemed to bring an odd calmness. Even the Temple Mount, the supposed heart of the conflict saw a growing amount of Jews being allowed up.
To many, the Prime Minister’s approach seemed to have worked and yet we see, like always what the real reason is for the reprieve in Palestinian violence in connection to Jerusalem.
With the help of Regavim and other activists, a situation came to light concerning the Muslim Waqf’s intention to alter the status quo by harming the walls of the Temple Mount in order to facilitate increased access for Muslim worshipers in time for Ramadan in June. The site in question is on the Mount’s South side and would irrevocably damage a declared antiquities site.
In March 2016 the Israel Antiquities Authority filed a lawsuit against the Muslim Waqf in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court that petitioned the court to give a permanent injunction prohibiting the continued work of the illegal site and restitution. The injunction was in fact granted, yet one day later the Prime Minister’s office intervened and the injunction was lifted.
This is Bibi’s style. He talks tough and behind the scenes gives the Palestinian Arabs some gifts in order to remain calm. This particular gift is set to be explosive and would be the first time since the Waqf dug up ancient artifacts on the Temple Mount that they would be allowed to completely alter the status quo.
In early May the Antiquities Authority sent a message to the court insisting the government appeared set on settling the matter through discussion with the Waqf. In fact, the political echelon admitted that they wanted time to have a dialogue and asked for an extension that would lead until July.
“In the meantime, and during the period in which you are active on the political level and try to finish the matter through dialogue with the Waqf, the illegal construction at the archaeological site continues, in violation of the order to stop work against them with total disregard for their obligations according to the law and instead attempt to talk with them,” lawyers for the Antiquities Authority charged in written statement. “The construction works are expected to be completed at the archaeological site with the start of Ramadan in about two weeks. The experience of our client says that as soon as work on the toilets will begin, it will be difficult for future enforcement actions.”
This week right wing NGO Regavim issued the following the statement: “This week, we issued an urgent letter to the prime minister, the mayor of Jerusalem and Minister Regev that the (IAA) is under her wing. We are also preparing a petition on the matter to the Supreme Court. This destruction of Jewish History can not continue on the Temple Mount.”
The question of status quo is constantly pushed to frame actions by Jews on the Temple Mount as encroachment, while actions by Muslims and their supporters are merely restoring that which the Jewish presence altered. The real question for the government is at what cost do we incur by letting the Muslim Waqf radically change our holiest site in exchange for some quiet. Giving up on the Temple Mount sets the stage for the rest of Jerusalem and so forth. The government would be wise to admit to itself and to the public that the farce of a “status quo” is just that, a lie and if the Waqf cannot uphold its part of the agreement, we no longer need to as well.