High alert on the Temple Mount



Adar2 29, 5765

The decision by the security establishment to close the Temple Mount to Jews on Sunday again invokes the bitter memory left by Ariel Sharon's visit to the holy site on September 28, 2000. That visit, which Ehud Barak's government agonized over whether or not to permit, ignited the second intifada.

The members of the Revava movement who have called on masses of Israelis to come to the Temple Mount on Sunday apparently hope to be the spark for setting ablaze the next intifada and perhaps succeeding this time, too, in thwarting diplomatic moves, particularly the evacuation of the Gaza Strip. Judging by the level of alert declared by the security forces, it appears that, in addition to the fear of the consequences of Revava's protest plans, the Shin Bet security service has indications that Jews are planning to carry out a terror attack on the Temple Mount. As most of the residents of Gush Katif are not violent and will apparently agree to leave their homes, the Shin Bet is extremely apprehensive about the possibility that extremists in that camp will take pains to disrupt the agreement. Extreme right-wing circles assume that it will still be possible to prevent the pullout through an act or acts that will shock the entire region. There are people like that all over the country, and their strength lies in their morally unmitigated determination.

All the security experience and know-how that Israel has accumulated, and in which it has invested billions, now has to be mobilized to prevent this scenario from coming to fruition. Failure to thwart an act of Jewish terror or a mass provocation at this critical stage will show that Israel's democratic regime has not learned a lesson from the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, or from the affair of the Jewish underground that also had plans "to cleanse the Temple Mount."

Meanwhile there are no signs in the conduct of the army or the police indicating that they are taking the Jewish troublemakers with sufficient seriousness. Ten-year-olds are able to interfere with the activities of army and police detachments, to break the limbs of policemen and to make the lives of Palestinians miserable - and other than brief revolving-door arrests, the attitude toward them has been one merely of inexplicable leniency rather than a firmer-than-usual hand.

The first test will come on Sunday at the Temple Mount. The decision to close the mount to Jews is important, but it is not sufficient. The declaration of intent by the right to bring masses to the site has already touched off counter-demonstrations on the part of Muslims, and there is a concrete threat of escalation. It is to be hoped that the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Arab leadership will be successful in calming tempers, and that they will understand that ferment can merely serve to undermine the interests of peace-seekers in the region and play into the hands of those who are excited by the thought of war and undeterred by bloodshed.

The Palestinians should understand that the majority of the Israeli public is interested in quiet, and they should not fall victim to the anticipated provocations of the right. Even after the security forces do their utmost to prevent violence on the Temple Mount, there is still a chance that an individual terrorist could succeed in carrying out a plot. Even a "success" of this kind, heaven forbid, should not be allowed to disrupt the important plan to promote an agreement between the sides.