(March 12, 2019 / JNS) If one sign that the messiah is coming is the appearance of supernatural phenomena, then given the situation in Jerusalem we are on the eve of his arrival. Oddly enough, it is precisely around the sealed “Gate of Mercy” (Sha’ar HaRachmim) on the Temple Mount that a series of mishaps have recently occurred that suggest the messiah might also pass through on his donkey. This despite the fact that the Arabs placed a graveyard at the entrance to the site to prevent priests from entering—and that the messiah is not a priest.
The structure directly adjacent to the “Gate of Mercy” served as a college for Islamic studies until it was closed by the police in 2003 due to Hamas and Islamic Movement activity there, financed by Turkey. The court order to shut the site down has since played into the hands of both the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanians, who recognize how Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is acting to undermine them and other Arab regimes, and have therefore accepted the closure with “passive” understanding.
Following the clumsy break-in to the site, Waqf officials and Jordanian representatives are trying to explain just where they have been for the 16 years in which the site remain shuttered. The reopening of the site did not in fact result in a change to the status quo on the matter, but the Waqf’s position has raised Palestinian concerns and reflects an insolent attitude towards Israel.
The structure has never served as a mosque. It has no prayer niche and is designed as a portico due to its purpose as an entrance gate. “Drunk on victory,” the motivation of the Jordanians and the Palestinians continues to resonate. The questions that should be asked then are: What is the practical value of the structure in the context of the question of sovereignty and control over the Temple Mount? To what extent has Israeli deterrence and sovereignty in Jerusalem been harmed? Is there a point to returning the situation to its prior status through negotiations, and what is the likelihood of that happening? And what are the odds of, and what price will we pay for, forcefully working towards this goal?
To answer these questions, one must understand the Palestinians’ incentive on the Temple Mount. The Palestinians have never had a state, and Jerusalem has never served as their capital. Their demand to establish a capital by exploiting the Al-Aqsa mosque seeks to smash Israel and Zionism’s national, historical and religious legitimacy. The gaining of footholds on the mount (Solomon’s Stables, the Huldah Gates and the “Gate of Mercy”) is aimed at turning Al-Aqsa into leverage in their demand for a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.
Ever since the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians have increasingly held to the illusion that seizing Jerusalem as “their capital,” through a takeover of Al-Aqsa, will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state at the expense of both Jordan and Israel, allowing them to kill two birds with one stone: The Jordanians would lose religious legitimacy and implode, and the Israelis will lose their religious and national compass as the grounds for their sovereign existence in Zion.
The artificial noise at the mosque was aimed at illustrating how Jerusalem remains a “burning issue” and is far from a done deal. But every Muslim child knows that no religious site in an Islamic city makes it a capital. Mecca and Medina did not become the capitals of Saudi Arabia. Even Jordan, which controlled Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, did not make the city its capital. One should not assume that the Americans will buy into this foolishness.
And the Jordanians? Woe to their inclinations. The Jordanian crown is subject to restlessness at home, where there is a demand to change the constitution so that the monarchy is a figurehead and the government is representative, like in England, in a country in which a majority of the population is Palestinian. That is why they dream in Jordan of the Palestinians in the West Bank being stuck with us, in the model of a weakened state. They understand that, if established, a Palestinian state would threaten them both at home and outside the country’s borders.
As a result, while the Jordanians are “for,” they are also “against.” Absent a response to the Palestinians’ fantasies, including in Jerusalem, “Palestine” will not be established, and Jordan will become an “alternative homeland.”
As an expression of the dilemma, the Jordanians have created a joint front with the Palestinians through the preservation of a Jordanian majority on the Waqf Council. King Abdullah understands that if the Hashemite dynasty cedes control over managing Al-Aqsa, which was agreed upon with Israel, the throne will lose its religious legitimacy. They have not forgotten that the Palestinians tried to take control of Jordan and kick out the royal family in the 1970s. This understanding is the motivation for the joint Israeli-Jordanian coordination on the Temple Mount.
As for us, we should keep the Arab parable that “we have come to eat grapes, not kill the guard” in mind. We must emphasize that the joint Jordanian-Palestinian move will not lead to Jerusalem’s division, but rather, a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation with Amman as its capital.
Dr. Reuven Berko was the adviser on Arab affairs to the Jerusalem district police and a writer for Israel Hayom.