It’s time to change the status quo on the Temple Mount

As recent events have proved, a policy originally meant to ensure peace and tolerance has instead become an enabler of Arab rejectionism and violent Israel-hatred.

Protesters wave Hamas flags after Friday prayers, at the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, April 22, 2022. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Protesters wave Hamas flags after Friday prayers, at the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, April 22, 2022. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Ken Cohen
Ken Cohen
Ken Cohen is editor of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

In a situation provoked by Palestinian leaders’ lies, Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has become a war zone. Arab riots, assaults and weapons-stockpiling atop Judaism’s holiest site have spiraled out of control, and it has become a tinderbox for violent anti-Zionist rage.

Last week’s Al-Aqsa rampage should convince Israel that it’s time to drastically alter the governance scheme known as the “status quo.” Israel can no longer tolerate the Temple Mount’s use as a protected staging area for insurrection.

The utterly false accusation that Israel plans to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque has been relentlessly marketed to Palestinians, including by their politicians and religious figures. With no evidence, Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Palestine, recently warned of the “danger” of Israel’s plans to “demolish the Al-Aqsa mosque.” Today, that slander is accepted by 73% of Palestinians.

This “Al-Aqsa lie” is so persistently powerful that it served to justify the intifada in 2000 and innumerable acts of terrorism—including Hamas’s massive missile war last April.

The situation on the Temple Mount is the result of an arrangement created in July 1967 by then-Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. He called it the “status quo,” implying that it was a mere preservation of the Jordanian rules that had been in force preceding the Six-Day War.

In that war, Israel defeated the Jordanian and other Arab armies that were intent on exterminating the nation of Israel and all of its Jews. Jordan had, 19 years earlier, illegally invaded and conquered Judea and Samaria, renamed the areas as the West Bank, and annexed them. This area included the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

During Jordan’s occupation, Israelis were banned from these territories, including the Temple Mount.

So when Moshe Dayan claimed that he was “preserving the status quo” in 1967, he was peddling a fantasy. In fact, the Ottoman-era “status quo” never pertained to the Temple Mount, but only to feuding Christian denominations’ sites.

Dayan, the military genius who had just crushed his Arab enemies, felt Israel should be magnanimous in victory. He was a secular Zionist who had little connection to Judaism as a religion. He saw national ardor and religious passion as separate.

Dayan explained in his memoirs that in his “status quo” formula, he hoped to prevent Israel’s national victory from creating an ongoing religious debacle. He didn’t realize that for millions of Muslims, the political and religious realms are one.

Even Dayan’s phony “status quo” hasn’t lasted: It’s gotten worse for Israel and worse for Jews, decade after decade.

Under the Dayan “status quo”:

Jews had access to the Temple Mount at all times—but not to pray.

Now, Jews have limited access, and often are completely barred from the site. Arab gangs roam the Mount, harassing—even assaulting—any Jew even suspected of praying.

Back then, Israel retained full security control over the Mount.

Today, Israeli police must don protective gear due to Arab rioting on the Mount. The cops’ standing orders are to not enter the Al-Aqsa mosque itself, even when murderers take sanctuary there or when large stores of weapons are stockpiled inside, making it resemble an armory more than a holy place.

Then, the Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount was not in question.

Now, massive excavations by Palestinians—with no Israeli oversight—routinely destroy the priceless archaeological record of two Jewish Temples and an entire era of Jewish culture.  Israel lifts not a finger to prevent this rape of its own past.

When Israel captured the Temple Mount in 1967, its soldiers hoisted an Israeli flag there. Dayan ordered it taken down and dictated that no flags were to fly on the Temple Mount.
Today, the Temple Mount is festooned with a sea of Hamas and PLO flags. A single Israeli flag? No: “too provocative.”

These and other signs of the erosion of the Dayan plan demonstrate that there is no such thing as the “status quo”—there is just a Palestinian enclave that serves as the core of an anti-Zionist revolt.

Israeli citizens and policemen are routinely assaulted and murdered there. Israeli worshippers at a Sukkot festival at the Kotel—below the Temple Mount—were bombarded with stones and steel bars by rioting Arabs above.  Days ago, a similar barrage was unleashed on Passover worshippers.

This state of anarchy should not be tolerated by any society.

At this point, nothing short of revoking the “status quo” will do. A policy meant to ensure peace and tolerance at a holy site has instead become an enabler of Arab rejectionism and violent hatred of Israel.

Canceling the “status quo” will surely attract condemnation from many, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. According to a State Department press release, “Secretary Blinken emphasized the importance of upholding the historic status quo at the Temple Mount for peace.”

He is utterly wrong, and he disregards the history and the nightly videos of the rioting on the Temple Mount. He should listen to the bloodthirsty anti-Semitic tirades P.A. leaders and Temple Mount religious officials spewed last week. The situation on the Temple Mount is an incubator for hatred and war, not peacemaking.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II—whose father was allowed to preserve authority over the Temple Mount under Dayan’s misguided policy—will surely respond with outrage. He has played a double-dealing game with Israel and the Palestinians throughout his reign.

But without the water and other resources generously provided by Israel since Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty, Jordan would be a very thirsty, very impoverished country. Let Abdullah make his disgruntled speech.

Israel needs to oust the Hamas-supported officials on the Temple Mount, and find new, tolerant-minded, peace-seeking Muslim leaders from anywhere to administer the Temple Mount.

Ken Cohen is co-editor of the Hotline published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which offers educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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