By Joseph Klein
Last Friday, three Arabs killed two Israeli police officers who were guarding an entrance to Jerusalem’s holy compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The police officers were shot with arms that had evidently been smuggled into the compound and stashed there. This latest attack was another in an unending series of terrorist murders of Israelis, but this time the attack took place at Old Jerusalem’s sacred site itself. It also may have been orchestrated by a Hezbollah-run cell, acting on orders from Iran, according to a Debkafile report based on its intelligence and counterterrorism sources.
“The pro-Iranian terror group has long been suspected of recruiting networks in some Israeli Arab communities,” the Debkafile report stated. “By striking Temple Mount, Iran and Hizballah targeted both Israel and Jordan, which claims religious custodianship of its mosques.”
If the Debkafile report turns out to be true, Iran may have been trying to set off Palestinian riots, anticipating stern security measures imposed by Israel that would be seen as interfering with access by Muslim worshippers to their third holiest site. For the last five nights, Palestinians have been attacking police. The police appeared to have acted with restraint in dispersing the mobs. On Thursday, a Palestinian terrorist tried to stab a female IDF officer in a town south of Jerusalem. Fortunately, the IDF officer was not hurt. The terrorist was shot dead. The fear is that there will be another surge in terrorist attacks against Israeli soldiers, police and civilians, followed by Israeli reprisals that the so-called “international community” will condemn. This is the vicious cycle that Israel’s enemies within Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and elsewhere are looking to repeat.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had tried to maintain calm in the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s terrorist attack. He told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel would “take all the necessary actions to maintain security on the Temple Mount, without changing the status quo.” Abbas had called Prime Minister Netanyahu to condemn the attack, while seeking assurances that the holy site, which had been closed temporarily for security reasons, would be re-opened promptly.
True to the Israeli prime minister’s word, Israel partially re-opened the compound to worshippers two days after the murders of the Israeli police officers. More gates were opened Monday morning. For understandable security reasons, Israel installed metal detectors at the entrances to detect any arms being smuggled into the compound. That action has set off denunciations by Palestinian government officials and Muslim religious leaders.
Abbas has quickly pivoted away from his momentary condemnation of the terrorist attack. According to Fatah vice chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul, as quoted by the Jerusalem Post, Abbas has been engaging in “intensive phone calls” to line up international pressure on Israel to reverse its latest security measures.
Muslim religious leaders also refused to accept such commonsense security measures and directed their worshippers not to enter the compound as long as there are metal detectors there.
The Waqf Muslim religious trust and other Muslim authorities released the following statement:
“If the metal detectors continue to be imposed on the gates to the blessed al-Aksa Mosque, we call upon our people to pray and worship in front of the gates of the al-Aksa Mosque and in the streets of Jerusalem and its alleys.”
The Mufti of Jerusalem issued a religious edict for Muslims, declaring that the prayers of any Muslim entering the compound through the “Zionist” metal detectors will be “invalid” and will not be received by Allah.
“This is a severe violation of the status quo,” said Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, the director of al-Aksa Mosque, which is situated on the Temple Mount.
PLO executive committee member Mustafa Barghouti expressed defiance. “We have been under occupation for 50 years, and we will not ‘get used’ to the new injustice,” Barghouti told the Jerusalem Post. “People will try entering in every possible way without going through the electronic devices,” he added. “There is no place in the world that collective punishment is used against the whole population… We feel that their aim and nature is to change the situation at al-Aksa mosque.”
Following Barghouti’s “logic,” all airline passengers are being collectively punished for the acts committed by terrorists, including Palestinians, on board planes and at airports. Following the Mufti’s “logic,” a Muslim flying from a New York airport to Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage, who passes through a metal detector supplied by an Israeli firm, would presumably not have his prayers in Mecca heard by Allah. Barghouti, the Mufti and other like-minded Israel-haters do not denounce the murders and exhort their followers to refrain from all violence. Instead, they condemn Israel for taking measures to protect not only its own citizens, but all worshippers, from violence. Such depravity should be denounced by world leaders. Instead, there is silence.
Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, issued a bland statement on Thursday expressing deep concern over “the recent surge in tensions and violence around the holy esplanade in the Old City of Jerusalem.” His statement failed to single out the trigger for the “recent surge” – Islamic terrorism. He called upon all concerned parties “to de-escalate the situation and on moderate voices to speak up against those who try to fuel tensions.” His statement praised President Abbas’s condemnation of the deadly attack last Friday and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s commitment to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites. The statement failed to call out specifically the Palestinian officials and Muslim religious leaders who have been fueling the tensions in the streets with inflammatory language against Israel’s measures to prevent more smuggling of arms into the Temple Mount.
Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary General, Farhan Haq, punted when he was asked on Thursday if Israel’s use of metal detectors to deter the smuggling of arms into the Temple Mount compound will exacerbate the situation as the Palestinians say, or whether it will actually increase the level of security as the Israelis are saying. The reporter asking the question at the UN’s New York headquarters reminded Mr. Haq that metal detectors are used “in the entrance to this hallowed building.”
Mr. Haq referred the reporter to Nickolay Mladenov’s statement, which sheds no light on the issue. The deputy spokesperson then simply recited the UN’s standard line by declaring, “We believe it’s important that the status quo that we’ve had in place be maintained at all holy sites so that worshipers can freely have access to them.”
Palestinian terrorists have changed the conditions for maintaining the status quo by bringing their slaughter into the immediate vicinity of the Temple Mount holy site. Israel’s use of metal detectors, a common security feature at airports and at so many other venues around the world, will help deter the arms smuggling that threatens peaceful worship by members of all faiths. It is shameful that the UN lacks the common sense, let alone the moral courage, to publicly back such security measures as a restrained means to prevent more carnage and desecration of Jerusalem’s holiest site.