By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
Israel’s prime minister has worked hard to forge an alliance with the king of Jordan. One of the results is said to be Israel supplying water for the million Syrian refugees currently in the kingdom without which they couldn’t survive. Another is the sale of half-a-billion dollars’ worth of gas that Israel is about to unearth.
At the same time, one of the Knesset members of Netanyahu’s own Likud party, Moshe Feiglin, among whose supporters within the party there’re at least three deputy minister (the office is usually a sinecure to keep difficult party members to do the prime minister’s bidding), has initiated a debate in the Knesset that has given Jordanian parliamentarians an excuse to demand the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador in Amman.
The subject of the Knesset debate is Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. The Mount is currently jointly administered by the Waqf, the Islamic trust led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and by Jordan. They prohibit Jews from praying there.
The purpose of the debate was in itself not unreasonable: the same rights to worship on the site of the ancient Israelite Temple that’s currently enjoyed by Muslims in the Al Aqsa Mosque and elsewhere on the hill. But the implication is incitement to riot by Palestinians some of which has already taken place. It’s also to invoke the ire of the Jordanians as reflected in the demand to expel the Israeli ambassador.
Much of the Jewish rhetoric is totally misleading and highly inflammatory: it argues that there can be no Israel without full access to the Temple Mount. Some may also see this as an expression of the desire to close down, perhaps even destroy, the Muslim holy sites there to realize the insane intention of rebuilding the ancient Temple.
It seems that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s attempts at statesmanship in his relations with King Abdullah of Jordan are being deliberately undermined by the many hotheads in his own party. Danny Danon, arguably the most extreme of the Likud deputy ministers and the head of the party’s Central Committee, is even trying to deprive party leader Netanyahu, probably in the guise of adherence to the democratic process, of decision making powers.
Perhaps in an effort to appease the extremists on the right-wing, which has often been Netanyahu’s way of staying at the helm, there’re plans afoot to hand over the management of the archeological park around the Western Wall, including the Davidson Centre, to the Elad Foundation, a right-wing settler group that already administers the City of David in Jerusalem and is doing its best to settle Jews in the Arab village of Silwan where the City of David is situated.
In view of the unhappiness of the Palestinians in Silwan and elsewhere because of the activities of Elad, this would no doubt lead to more clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, more tensions and yet another reason to speculate whether a third intifada is on its way. (It may also jeopardize access to the area by non-Orthodox groups.)
All this is, of course, in the name of patriotic Zionism and the love of the Jewish People. The price that all sides will have to pay in the process doesn’t seem to matter to the proponents of the scheme, including many Knesset members: another illustration of the lethal consequences of mixing religion with politics, this time as self-destructive patriotism.