and Winning the Temple Mount
By Caroline Glick
August 4, 2017
Last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his
security cabinet caved in to the demands of the PLO and its partners in Hamas,
the Islamic Movement, Jordan, Iran and Turkey by agreeing to remove metal
detectors and other security screening equipment from the Temple Mount. The
equipment was installed last month in response to Palestinian incitement and
acts of jihadist violence against Israelis, including the murder of two
policemen, at Judaism’s holiest site.
After polls showed 77% of Israelis felt he and his cabinet
members capitulated to terrorism, Netanyahu issued a statement thanking US
President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Trump’s senior
negotiator Jason Greenblatt for their help in resolving the crisis.
The underlying message of Netanyahu’s statement was that
he and his ministers folded like a cheap suit to our enemies’ demands,
effectively ceding Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount to our enemies
because Kushner and Greenblatt pressured them to do so.
But then this week, a congressional intern did us the favor
of surreptitiously recording and leaking remarks Kushner made on the issue in
off-record remarks to interns at the White House. Kushner’s remarks, which
came in response to a question about his role in mediating the Palestinian
conflict with Israel, were fairly detailed.
Regarding the Temple Mount crisis, Kushner justified
Israel’s decision to place metal detectors at the entrance of the Temple
Mount. In his words, following the murder of the policemen by terrorists armed
with guns smuggled onto the Mount, “putting up metal detectors on the Temple
Mount… is not an irrational thing to do.”
Kushner also emphasized several times the central role that
Palestinian incitement played in fomenting the violence on the Temple Mount. He
drew the logical conclusion that the same incitement which fomented the violence
on the Temple Mount led to the massacre of the Saloman family in their home in
Halamish two weeks ago.
Unlike all previous US mediators, Kushner didn’t blame
“both sides” for causing the violence. He placed the blame squarely on the
Palestinians who incited and committed murder.
In speaking this way, Kushner made clear that he isn’t
the type of person who will apply bone-breaking pressure on Israel to capitulate
to the demands of terrorist murderers. Certainly Netanyahu and his ministers are
strong enough to withstand whatever pressure Kushner and Greenblatt may have
brought to bear on them last week.
Indeed, as one administration official put it, “The idea
that the same Netanyahu who withstood eight years of unrelenting pressure from
the Obama administration crumpled under pressure from Kushner and Greenblatt is
So if it wasn’t American pressure that convinced
Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and their colleagues in the
security cabinet to crumple, why did they do it?
All of their instincts were pointing them down the opposite
From a security standpoint, you don’t need to be a genius
to understand that you don’t respond to an enemy on offense by surrendering
More generally, Netanyahu and his ministers all know that
just as releasing terrorists from prison guarantees more dead Israelis, so
capitulating to the demands of terrorists ensures more dead Israelis.
But if the decision was wrong from a security standpoint,
it was downright crazy from a political perspective. Among the 77% of Israelis
who said the decision amounted to capitulation were doubtlessly 100% of Likud
and Yisrael Beytenu voters and 85% of Kulanu voters. (Bayit Yehudi voters at
least knew their cabinet representatives, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, voted against the measure.)
According to the media, the cabinet was intimidated into
surrendering by a doomsday scenario presented by the IDF and Shin Bet
representatives at the cabinet meeting. Channel 2 reported that the IDF and Shin
Bet warned the politicians that failure to capitulate would result in a security
nightmare, whose details they laid out in a frightening PowerPoint slide.
The Palestinians would start a new terrorist war, they
Fatah’s Tanzim terrorists, who have been inactive in
recent years, would renew their attacks, they warned.
The Palestinians would undermine Israel’s capacity to
fight Hezbollah effectively in Lebanon, they insisted.
And finally, if Israel failed to capitulate, a “rare
unity” of forces in the Islamic world stretching from Turkey to Iran would
emerge, they hectored.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but all of these
doomsday admonitions are debatable.
Take the issue of the “rare unity” from Iran to Turkey.
Since the Turks tried to break Israel’s maritime blockade
of Hamas-controlled Gaza seven years ago, unity has been the rule not the
exception in Turkish-Iranian relations. Both supported the Muslim Brotherhood in
the so-called Arab Spring. Both supported Hamas in its 2014 war against Israel
from Gaza. And today, both support Qatar against the Saudi- and Egyptian-led
bloc of Sunni Arab states.
As for the Sunni Arabs, last week, the Saudis took the
stunning step of siding with Israel on the metal detectors. The Saudis noted
supportively that they installed metal detectors in Mecca and Medina.
As to the rest of the scenarios the security chiefs raised,
they may or may not be true. But what is certainly true is that it isn’t the
job of the security community to tell Israel’s leaders they have no choice but
to surrender to aggression. It is their duty to formulate plans for defeating
the aggressors, period.
And incidentally, ahead of Tisha Be’av, which fell this
year on Monday night/Tuesday, unlike the IDF and the Shin Bet, the police did
just that. Whereas the Shin Bet wanted to prohibit Jews from visiting the Temple
Mount on the day of mourning commemorating the destruction of the First and
Second Temples, the police recognized it was its job to enable Jews to visit.
Rather than join the Shin Bet in recommending that Jews be
barred from visiting the Temple Mount, the police provided the requisite
protection and enabled more than 1,200 Jews to visit the site without incident.
The fact that Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich provided
security when Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman said it couldn’t be done makes
it hard to avoid the impression that the warnings the IDF and Shin Bet chiefs
issued the security cabinet last week stemmed less from professional
considerations than from ideological or political agendas.
This impression is strengthened when last week’s horror
scenarios are seen in the context of the security establishment’s long history
of blocking the implementation of government policies it was its duty to
For instance, in 2010 and 2012, the commanders of the IDF
and the Mossad reportedly refused to carry out Netanyahu’s order to prepare
their forces to strike Iran’s nuclear installations.
And then-Shin Bet director Ami Ayalon’s move to blame
Netanyahu when the Palestinians unleashed a terrorist offensive in 1996 after
Netanyahu’s first government opened a second entrance to the tunnels below the
Western Wall is etched in collective memory.
But for all their institutional and personal drawbacks,
there is a limit to the amount of blame you can place on Israel’s security
leadership for the cabinet’s decision to surrender to terrorists last week.
After all, while it is true the IDF and Shin Bet commanders crossed the line,
Netanyahu and his ministers let them cross it.
If Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wanted
to, they could easily have blunted the security brass’s push for capitulation.
They certainly could have publicly criticized them for their defeatism rather
than insinuate that the Americans made them capitulate.
So why haven’t Netanyahu and Liberman called them to
order? Why doesn’t Netanyahu – at a minimum – publicly criticize his
generals for their insubordination and contrast their spinelessness with
Alsheich’s professional competence and determination?
The answer is discouraging. Netanyahu allows himself and
his cabinet members to be bullied by his generals because he doesn’t have a
policy for securing Israeli sovereignty and advancing Israel’s national
interests at the Temple Mount. Without a positive goal, he is reduced to
treading water with the hope of keeping a lid on Muslim jihadists. And so his
“policy” of bowing to his politically subversive generals bears a
disquieting resemblance to George Orwell’s quip, “The quickest way of ending
a war is to lose it.”
Perhaps the depressing aspect of all of this is that it
isn’t hard to figure out what a reasonable, constructive policy would be for
the Temple Mount.
As a liberal democracy, Israel has an interest, indeed a
duty, to ensure that the holy site is open to all religions and that everyone
has the right to freely worship on the Temple Mount. Given the fact that the
Temple Mount is the holiest place in the world for Jews, Israel has a vital
interest in securing its sovereign control over the area.
To secure its sovereignty and advance its clear interest in
facilitating religious freedom for all, Israel’s policy goal is
straightforward. The government should enable all faiths to worship freely at
To secure this end, the government should announce its goal
and make a good-faith effort to involve all relevant groups and governments,
including the Palestinian Authority, Christian authorities, Jewish authorities,
the Jordanian regime and others in achieving it. The government should also
state outright that if the Palestinians opt instead to incite and commit acts of
violence and terrorism from the Temple Mount, Israel will secure its goal and
enable Jews and Christians to worship at the holy site unilaterally.
To date, the Temple Mount has been the Palestinians’ ace
in the hole. They recycle the blood libel that Jews are endangering al-Aksa
every time they feel they are losing ground in their never-ending war against
Israel. And Israel inevitably capitulates.
But if Israel announces its policy is to secure religious
freedom for all on the Temple Mount and makes a good-faith effort to advance it
in conjunction with the Palestinians and all other relevant groups, it will set
the conditions for taking that ace away.
If after it begins good-faith efforts to collectively
advance the liberal, democratic goal of ensuring religious freedom for all at
the holy site, the Palestinians again turn to violence, then the Islamic world,
or parts of it, will be in a position to blame them when Israel unilaterally
enables Jews and Christians to pray on the Temple Mount parallel to Muslim
If Netanyahu and his ministers make this their goal then
the IDF and the Shin Bet won’t be able to intimidate them into capitulation
next time around. Instead, the leaders of the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Foreign
Ministry will all know their jobs and know that if they fail to perform they
will be replaced.
Israel ceded the Temple Mount to terrorists last week. But
with a clear goal, we can get it back in short order and keep it perpetually for
the good of all humanity.