Those who have been pitching the “new and improved” Ra’am Party to the Israeli public as a moderate faction promoting a civil agenda had something of a rude awakening on Sunday, courtesy of the “old” Islamist Ra’am.
Its warning against “settlers and MKs violating the Al-Aqsa mosque” was taken right out of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s playbook. Similar statements were made by the Gaza-base terrorist group as part of its ultimatums to Israel prior to the 11 days of fighting that erupted in May.
Its statement, echoed by the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement from which it hails, adopted the menacing terminology used by Hamas with regards to the Temple Mount.
If anything, this means that the allegedly moderate Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement aims to take the place of its northern counterpart, which Israel outlawed in 2015 over its radicalism and ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Southern Branch officials are now expressing similar, radical opinions over the Temple Mount to those expressed by Northern Branch officials who are now jailed.
It is time to admit that the status quo at the holy site has been eroded to the point that it exists in name only. The Muslims have turned the Dome of the Rock into a mosque, they have built two underground mosques at the site, Israeli enforcement of building regulations and protection of antiquities has weakened and Jews have been subjected to rigorous limitations with regard to visiting the site.
It is only natural in light of these developments that Israeli enforcement of the joke that is the “status quo” should slacken.
As it has—a welcome change in Israel’s policies on the Temple Mount vis-à-vis the Muslim offensive dates back to when Gilad Erdan was public security minister and Yoram Halevi was Jerusalem District Police chief.
Seeking to meet the growing demand for Jewish worshippers to visit the site, the two relaxed some of the restrictions. As a result, the number of Jewish worshippers visiting the Temple Mount has grown from 5,000 to 35,000 a year.
Erdan and Halevi also allowed low-profile group prayer at the site, as long as said groups refrained from displaying outward signs such as tallit, tefillin and prayer books so as not to spark unnecessary provocation, and overall instructed Israeli security forces to be friendlier to Jews there.
This did not go unnoticed by the Muslims, who ramped up “al-Aqsa is in danger” propaganda, which accuses Israel of trying to raze the Muslim edifices on the site, citing the alleged changes in the status quo that benefit Jewish worshippers.
In recent years, this type of incitement has grown from mere statements into an actual fuel for terrorist attacks. Hundreds of terrorists set out to shoot, stab, ram and stone Jews after they were tricked into believing that “Al-Aqsa is in danger.” Those apprehended prior to executing their nefarious plans said they had planned to murder Jews visiting the site.
The Murabitun and Murabitat—two fundamentalist organizations that hail from the Northern Branch of the Islamist Movement and which have also been outlawed by Israel—have also tried to undermine Jews’ visits to the premises.
May’s hostilities, as well as the unprecedented riots in mixed Israeli cities, were all fueled by the false “Al-Aqsa is in danger” narrative.
Having said all that, it is worth noting that the difference between Jewish presence on the Temple Mount and the Muslim presence there is as vast as the ocean: 10 million Muslims visit the holy site each year—as many as the number of Jewish visitors to the Western Wall—but only a few thousand Jews visit the Temple Mount.
If anything, Ra’am’s statement about the mosque embraces the demands presented by terrorists who have been trying to harm Jews visiting the Temple Mount.
Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.