Muslim worshippers outside the Temple Mount. A sovereign power must act like a sovereign power
Photo: Elior Levy
Temple Mount metal detectors won’t help
Op-ed: Anyone interested in smuggling weapons into the explosive site will do it when hundreds of thousands of worshippers are gathered outside the gates. The metal detector will simply create a jam, which will lead to a commotion, and the police will be forced to let the masses in. Those seeking to bring in weapons will get their chance with no effort whatsoever.
The Temple Mount was closed to visitors for two days. It was a right, wise decision made by the political echelon. With all due respect to the pressure on Jordan’s King Abdullah, the Palestinian Authority and other governments in the Arab world, with all the fears of a renewed flare-up of terror from Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, Israel had to ensure that there were no more weapons at the Temple Mount.
It was also important to make it clear, looking to the future, that the Temple Mount is not immune. It can’t turn into a refuge for terrorists. And then came the metal detectors.
The Temple Mount has eight gates. On Sunday, the police placed metal detectors at the entrances. As the Old City was closed to visitors from outside, the number of worshippers who gathered around the gates was small. Some of them accepted the verdict, went through the detection and entered. Others, several hundred, preferred to protest in front of the police and the cameras. The incident ended peacefully, but that doesn’t mean the next incidents will end the same way.
The metal detectors are for the Jews, not for the Arabs. Anyone familiar with the reality at the Temple Mount understands that. Whoever wants to smuggle weapons or warfare agents into the Temple Mount won’t do it on a day like Sunday, but rather on a day in which hundreds of thousands of worshippers are gathered outside the gates. On days like that, there is no way to check each person individually, especially when dealing with a hostile population, with women who require particular sensitivity, with hot-tempered young men and with television cameras from around the world.
The metal detector will create a jam, the jam will lead to a commotion, and the commotion will force the police to let the masses pour in. Those interested in bringing in weapons and warfare agents will get their chance—with no effort whatsoever.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Sunday, from his trip abroad, that “contrary to what police sources have said, the metal detectors won’t be removed.” I wonder what he’ll say when it turns out that weapons have entered the Temple Mount in spite of the metal detectors. Who will he blame?
The reader may ask himself, and rightfully so, why there are metal detectors at the entrances to the Western Wall but no detectors at the Temple Mount gates. There’s a double answer to that question: First of all, the Jews visiting the Western Wall don’t view the security check as an act aimed at humiliating them. Second, on particularly busy days—the Priestly Blessing, for example—the police are often forced to settle for a random check.
The Temple Mount is an explosive place. Every incident that takes place there, or an incident people say has taken place there, invites terrorism in close and distant places. It’s Israel’s top interest to keep the mountain open, for diplomatic and PR purposes. It can’t afford a religious war against the Muslim world.
The rules set for the compound’s management are complex. They bind the Israel Police, the Jordan royal family, the Palestinian Authority and the Muslim Waqf together. They require a daily discourse between the Waqf leaders and Israeli elements, led by the police. There is no such discourse today. This may be the failure that will generate the next disaster.
The Waqf leaders tend to support the Jordanian royal family. Even those who are more influenced by the PA are considered Hamas haters. If there is any truth in the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the Waqf is a partner.
Moreover, the rules of the game on the Jewish side are changing. The national-religious public is alluringly drawn to the Temple Mount. More and more religious Jews wish to visit the site, hold events there, pray. The Muslims see this phenomenon as an intentional takeover attempt by the State of Israel. This explosive was not smuggled into the mountain—it arrived there with permission and authority.
The Temple Mount is under Israeli sovereignty. There is an obligation that comes with this right. A sovereign power must act like a sovereign power: Impose its will, but protect other people’s rights as well.
It’s possible that the way to make it clear to the Palestinians who is the sovereign power at the Temple Mount doesn’t pass through the compound’s gates but elsewhere—in the battle against radical preaches, Hamas supporters, in east Jerusalem; in dealing with the Islamic Movement’s northern branch in Israel, which has been outlawed but is still active in mosques; and in a dialogue with pragmatic elements, including people within the Waqf.
One thing’s for sure: Metal detectors won’t help.