Controversy surrounding the Temple Mount has reached unparalleled heights lately as international actors appear ready to step in to take away any rights Israel maintains over the holy site to maintain the status quo.
The term “status quo” regarding the Temple Mount has been thrown around recently by government officials, both in Israel and abroad.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated, to much criticism, that he wants to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount while, more recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that “we need to have clarity” on the status quo.
With such a simple yet heavy term being invoked over and over again to try and maintain peace in Jerusalem, what exactly is the legal status quo on the Temple Mount? Is it allowing the Muslim Waqf to continually discriminate against non-Muslims ascending the Mount? Condoning Islamist violence and terror on the holy site? Turning a blind eye towards Arab cover-ups of Jewish proofs to Judaism’s most holy site?
In 1967, following the Six-Day War between Israel and Jordan, partial control over the Temple Mount compound was turned over to the Jordanian controlled Muslim Waqf, an Islamic trust. While the Waqf maintains control over the day to day occurrences on the Mount, Israel retains control of security both in and out of the area.
After 27 years of being “at war,” Israel and Jordan signed an official peace treaty in 1994. Addressing a host of issues between the two countries, Article 9 of the agreement specifically lays out the groundwork on “places of historical and religious significance” shared by both Israel and Jordan, including the Temple Mount.
In three short and powerful points, Israel and Jordan agreed that:
1. Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.
2. In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.
3. The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.
And there you have it – the status quo, plain and simple.
Netanyahu, a very shrewd leader, may be pointing to Article 9 each and every time he says that Israel will maintain the status quo on the Mount. He is looking to “provide freedom of access” to the holy site in order to “promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions,” echoing the promise found in Isaiah 56:7 which states “for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” The prime minister seeks to uphold Israel’s side of the treaty of maintaining “freedom of religious worship, tolerance and peace.”
Furthermore, every time an Israeli court rules that Jews and non-Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount, they are upholding the legal rights set out and agreed upon by both Israel and Jordan.
Jordan, on the other hand, seems to be suffering from a severe case of amnesia. The Hashemite Kingdom has time and again come to the defense of the Palestinians, who continually riot and destroy the holy site, violently, physically and verbally harassing non-Muslim visitors.
Palestinian officials are now using Israel’s legal right to the Temple Mount as an excuse to conduct acts of terrorism and violence against Israel that has injured dozens and claimed the lives of many Israelis over the last several weeks.
Where is Jordan’s “moral commitment” to promote and uphold unity and peace among religions, commitments they agreed to 21 years ago?
The answer to those questioning the status quo on the Temple Mount is a simple one. Kerry and other world leaders do not need clarification since the status quo is set out in explicit and clear terms.
Israel has and will continue to work hard to maintain the religious freedoms of all people wishing to visit the holy site. The same cannot be said for Jordan and the Palestinians. However, this is Israel we’re talking about so more often than not, Israel will be blamed for bringing upon its own head the terror and violence currently striking the country.
Instead of questioning Israel’s commitment to the Temple Mount, the world should be up in arms, calling on Jordan to restore order and set the record straight. But the world remains silent – again.
Only time will tell how many more lives must be lost, how much more blood will be shed until those blinded by the lies fabricated against Israel will see the light of truth.
Author’s note: Special thanks to Pastor Keith Johnson for helping me see the light on this issue.