From Israel: Will You Look At That!!

I am referring to the visit of Itamar Ben Gvir, Minister of Public Security, to Har Habayit (the Temple Mount) on Tuesday.

Credit: Minhelet Har Habayit

And do you know what?  Despite many predictions to the contrary, the sky did not fall in.  In fact, aside from verbal and political attacks, both direct and subtle, nothing happened.  No hint of a riot, or worse.

Ben Gvir himself remained unruffled.  And there is a huge lesson here.


Prior to Tuesday, he had alluded to the fact that he would be going up.  This is something he does routinely. This point is not insignificant: he was not grandstanding now that he is a minister, he was following his normal practice.  (And I should mention that there is precedent – other ministers have gone up on the Mount, as well.) But he refrained from mentioning exactly when he would go.

In retrospect it is apparent that he chose an auspicious time: Tuesday was the Fast of the Tenth of Tevet, a morning to evening fast marking the day in 588 BCE that Babylonian troops surrounded Jerusalem, beginning a siege that ended with the destruction of the Temple in 586 BCE.

It was the opinion of at least one analyst that Ben Gvir announced that he would be going up, instead of just going, in order to give Hamas the space to make their threats.  Don’t know for certain, but it makes sense because this is a part of the lesson:  That terrorist threats will not dictate our behavior.  

At the very same time, the Hamas threats were oblique enough so that they did not require a specific follow-through. They did not say, for example, that they would begin launching rockets if he went up; typical was the warning of a Hamas official that Israel would be held responsible if Al Aqsa was harmed. And they did say they would “ignite the region.” As they very often do, in several instance they spoke of Israelis “storming” Al Aqsa.  You can see from the above picture precisely how Ben Gvir was “storming.”  But there is power in words, which create a mental image –and the Palestinian Arabs know it very well.


Oh, and I should mention that warnings came not only from Arabs.  Yair Lapid, now head of the opposition, warned that there would be violence and “lives will be lost.” Lapid is firmly in the camp that caves to threats, and so we have much to be grateful for, that he is no longer in charge.


Before going up, Ben Gvir met with the Prime Minister; rumors have it that Netanyahu tried to dissuade him from going up, but he denies it.  Ben Gvir also met with security officials from various agencies, all of whom indicated that there was no problem.  Their assurances factored into Netanyahu’s consent.

He went without fanfare, early in the morning, accompanied by a security contingent.  He stayed just 13 minutes.

Routine, normal.  Something that every Jew must have the right to do.  And that, in the end, was the minister’s point.  While he was on the Mount, he said (emphasis added):

“The Israeli government won’t capitulate to a murderous organization, to a repugnant terrorist group. The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel. The Temple Mount is open to all — Muslims, Christians and, yes, Jews too. Jews too. There won’t be racist discrimination in a government in which I am a member. Jews will ascend to the Temple Mount.

“We maintain freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians, but Jews also go up to the site, and those who make threats must be dealt with with an iron fist.”


Kol Hakavod! Right on!

I like what Herb Keinon of the JPost said about Ben Gvir’s visit to the Mount: He was right and he was smart.  That is, he stood up for what was right – stood for Jewish rights, but did it in a way that was low key and thus avoided an explosion.  


After his ascent, there were all sorts of verbal carrying on, but not more than that. The Palestinian Authority had called for people to flock to Al Aqsa to protect it, thereby hoping to incite a riot. But it would have been difficult to do when they had no schedule.

What is of particular note is the response of the US, which is pretty much what we would have expected of the Biden Administration.  At a press conference Ned Price, State Department Spokesman said, “We’re deeply concerned by any unilateral actions that have the potential to exacerbate tensions, precisely because we want to see the opposite happen. We want to see tensions reduced; we want to see tensions diminished. The – we know that the exceedingly rare instances of previous high-profile visits to Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount have only exacerbated tensions, or worse. And that’s why we can look back to 2000, we can look back to previous instances. It’s also why we call for the preservation of the historic status quo…”


Credit: PBS

I have several responses to Mr. Price – who of course speaks for Antony Blinken, but begin by calling your attention to how he refers to the Temple Mount.  Had he just said “Temple Mount,” that would have been fine.  But he alludes first to the Muslim Arab term for the Mount, and neglects to mention Har Habayit at all.

My friends, we don’t need more than this to know where he is coming from.  But his reference to “unilateral actions” – by which he means Israeli actions – is enough to raise blood pressure, because there is nothing said about PA incitement.  Of course this is all towards the goal of a “two state solution,” about which more below (read to the end).


But there are two other points I wish to make here with regard to Price’s statement.

He referred to “high profile” visits to the Mount that exacerbated tensions, and specifically looking back to 2000.  As this has been alluded to in a variety of sources, I want to set the record straight – it is a matter of importance.

The allusion is to Ariel Sharon, who was head of the Likud party and of the Israeli opposition in 2000. That September 28, he went up on to the Mount. Extended and horrific Palestinian Arab violence known as the second intifada began almost immediately thereafter.  The charge is that what Sharon did was so inciteful that it triggered the violence as a response.

Credit: BBC


The truth is something quite different.  Historical accuracy is always important, but here we have a recounting that is cautionary, for we are dealing today with the same adversary.

The Camp David summit – which brought together Ehud Barak, who was prime minister at the time, and Yasser Arafat, then chair of the PA, had taken place in July 2000. It was declared a failure by then-president Bill Clinton.

When Sharon decided he wanted to go up to the Mount, Israeli officials consulted with relevant PLO officials.  Jabil Rajoub (still a relevant player), then head of Palestinian Preventative Security in the West Bank, indicated that: “If Mr. Sharon refrains from entering the mosques on the Mount, there wouldn’t be a problem.”

So Sharon went up; he did not go into the mosques and tried to minimize disturbance to Palestinian Arabs who were there.

The next day the Palestinian Arab violence broke out. Evidence exists indicating that it was orchestrated, not spontaneous, and had been planned in advance.

Primary here are statements by former PA communications minister Imad al-Faluji, who said in March 2002 (emphasis added):

“…Whoever thinks that the intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon’s visit to Al Aqsa Mosque is wrong…This intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from Camp David negotiations.”

Earlier, in December 2000, he said:

“The PA had begun to prepare for the outbreak of the current intifada since the return from the Camp David negotiations, by request of President Yasser Arafat who predicted the outbreak of the intifada as a complementary stage to Palestinian steadfastness in negotiations and not as a specific protest against Sharon….”

Credit: NBC News

(Documented citations from my book, Disclosed: Inside the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, 2004, no longer in print.)

What seemed clear to me as I researched this situation is that while preparations had been made (brochures printed, stones stockpiled, etc.), they were looking for a hook on which to hang the violence. This is how the Palestinian Arabs negotiate: when matters are not to their liking – as Camp David was not – they resort to violence.


And then the last comment by Price regarding the need to preserve the “historic status quo.”  But, my friends, that “historic status quo” does not exist.

From an article on this subject on my website, https://arlenefromisrael.info:

“…the reference [to status quo], presumably, is to what Dayan set in place.  But in actuality the situation has eroded over the years, to the detriment of Jews.


“It was Dayan’s intention to permit Jews free access to the Mount for visitation.  But now hours of visitation for non-Muslims is exceedingly limited with regard to days and hours – with entrance restricted to the Mughrabi Gate, while Muslims come and go at will via several gates.

“Similarly, in principle, the laws of the State of Israel apply to the Temple Mount; this was as Dayan envisioned it and as the High Court of Israel determined the matter.  But in fact, laws regarding planning, construction and antiquities on the Mount have not been enforced with vigor.  This is a matter of huge import.  


“In 1996, work was begun by the Israeli Islamic Movement (Northern Branch), in cooperation with the Wakf, to make a space for prayer inside of Solomon’s Stables, an underground area that had been used during the Crusader period.  Israel had consented to its use during rainy weather; there was no permission granted for a major renovation.  


“There are multiple issues with regard to what happened here.  One is the intention of the Wakf to extend prayer areas of the Mount extensively in order to preclude opportunities for Jewish prayer in the future. While in 1967 there was only one mosque on the Mount, today there are five. Once worship was restricted to the Al Aksa Mosque; today, in addition to the other mosques, the entire Mount is utilized for Muslim prayer…”



This is information that must be shared broadly.  Please!!


The greatest outrage politically in this regard is the declared intention of the US to speak against Israel concerning the threat to the “status quo” at a UN Security Council meeting about the Temple Mount.  At the Security Council, a blatantly anti-Israel agency.  

As I write, this has not yet happened.  But with everything going on in the world, the fact that a 13-minute visit by a minister to the Temple Mount, a visit that generated no violence, should promote a special UNSC meeting tells us a great deal about how the world is arrayed against us.  But we know this.

Prime Minister Netanyahu had already defended Ben Gvir’s visit to the Mount.  At a Jabotinsky conference yesterday, he said:

Instead of bowing our heads and submitting to the dictates from the international community, we will proudly uphold our interests in the State of Israel and the Land of Israel.” 



And so bravo to him, as well.


Before closing, we circle back to Price’s allusion to the “two-state solution.”  I want to share a perceptive piece, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can’t be solved, only ended,” by Moshe Dann. He makes it very clear why there is no “two-state solution.”





© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.