What About Arab Violations of the Temple Mount Status Quo?

If the UN were a serious and credible organization - and not a hypocritical and biased institution - it would have investigated the multiple Palestinian violations of the status quo on the Temple Mount long ago.  

The emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, called Thursday night by the United Arab Emirates (and the Palestinians) to protest the rise of Israel's new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir last Tuesday, ended in a huff. The Biden administration, despite its opposition to the Jewish Power leader's move, threatened to veto any anti-Israel resolution. And finally, the ambassadors of the 15 member countries of the Council took their leave without even managing to draft a joint statement of condemnation. 

In short, the clamor about Israel and Ben-Gvir violating the status quo on the Temple Mount was quickly replaced by diplomatic pragmatism and the geopolitical reality on the ground. As Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan explained, calling a Security Council meeting to denounce a violation of the status quo on the Temple Mount is "ridiculous, pathetic, and unnecessary.” 

And Erdan knows something about this, since he himself climbed the Temple Mount as Internal Security Minister without causing an earthquake in the Arab-Muslim world. Erdan is even considered to be the architect of the increase in visits by Jewish worshippers to the holy mount in recent years.

The UN should have looked into the multiple violations of the status quo on the Temple Mount. Not by the Israelis, but by the Palestinians and their Arab allies!  

Re-establishing the historical truth about the Temple Mount

Ben-Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount gives us the opportunity to set the record straight on a few historical truths that have been grossly misrepresented by Palestinian propaganda. 

The first is not directly related to the status quo but to the favorite slogan of Hamas, (Palestinian Authority President) Mahmoud Abbas and the entire Arab world: "Al-Aqsa is in danger." 

Those who consider that this slogan was first launched by the current Palestinian leader could do with a refresher course in history. This slogan has been around for almost a century, first proclaimed by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hadj Amine El Husseini, during the first Arab riots in the Holy City in 1929. Behind this historical slogan lies an antisemitic canard: it claimed that in the Balfour Declaration, the British had not only authorized the Jews to create a Jewish home in Mandatory Palestine but also gave them the green light to destroy Al-Aqsa and rebuild the Third Temple in its place. Temple Mount Directorate Temple Mount DirectorateIsrael's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, January 3, 2022.

De facto, "Al-Aqsa is in danger" has become the rallying cry of the entire Arab world against any Jewish presence in Israel. And from decade to decade, it has been the catalyst for Palestinian protests on the Temple Mount. 

Protests that have, over the years, mutated into systematic violations of the status quo. This was established in the aftermath of the Six Day War, shortly after Moshe Dayan, then-Defense Minister, made the "historic" mistake of refusing the keys to the Temple Mount that the Waqf - the guardian of the holy places - wanted to hand over to him on June 7, 1967, after the conquest of the Old City, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount Esplanade. Thus, a few hours after Motta Gur proclaimed: "The Temple Mount is in our hands," Moshe Dayan rejected this historic proclamation and maintained the Waqf in its management of the holiest place in Judaism with the axiom of preserving the "status quo." 

After several years of calm, due to the shock of the Arab defeat, the Palestinian violations began: mosques built illegally, vestiges ransacked. Examples? While de facto Israeli law was officially established on the Esplanade, the Jordanian-led Waqf continued to build there illegally. Until the mid-1990s, only the Al-Aqsa Mosque was open to the public for prayers. From that time on, the Waqf violated the status quo by beginning, against the advice of Israel, the development of the site known as "King Solomon's Stables," located to the southeast of the Esplanade, but about ten meters below ground. In the course of the development of these stables into a mosque, the Palestinians will engage in a dramatic ransacking of archaeological remains dating back to the Second Temple period. No one at the UN or UNESCO was offended by these violations.  

Subsequently, construction continued. Today there are no fewer than five Muslim prayer sites, on or under the Esplanade, including the Omar Mosque which is used on Fridays as a place of prayer for women, the ancient site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (underground), and the El Marwani Mosque. Moreover, the original status quo allowed Jews to visit the Temple Mount without restriction. Today this is only possible for a few hours during the day. Moreover, during the Second Intifada, between 2000 and 2003, Jews were forbidden to enter the Temple Mount. 

And that's not all: over the years, the Waqf and its Jordanian patrons have obtained a right to look at even the outer perimeter of the Temple Mount! For example, for many years, Jordan has prevented Israel from building in stone the Mughrabi Gateway, which collapsed in 2004 following snowfalls and which has since been rebuilt in wood. Amman considers that the reconstruction of this footbridge would be a violation of the status quo. Also among the violations, the presence on the Temple Mount for many years of members of the Murabitun and Murabitat, two Islamist groups financed by Turkey and orchestrated by the anti-Jewish sheik Raed Salah. These groups proclaimed themselves the guardians of Al-Aqsa and constantly stirred up hatred and violence there before being outlawed by Israel in 2015. Finally, the attack that took the lives of two Israeli Druze border guards on the esplanade on July 14, 2017, certainly marked a climax in Palestinian violations. 

More and more Jewish worshippers

And it is no coincidence that, starting that same year, the number of Jews climbing the Temple Mount skyrockets (from 14,000 in 2016 to 30,000 in 2017). During the year 2022, 48,000 Jews climbed the Temple Mount, and it can be said that this mobilization was the direct result of the multiple violations of the status quo by the Palestinians.

Jewish settlers visit Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

And while this may be considered a violation of the status quo, it is nothing more than a Zionist and Jewish response by nationalist activists to the Palestinians' continuing desire to undermine Israel's sovereignty over this unique site.

Daniel Haik

January 06, 2023