INTO THE FRAY -The Temple Mount: No longer in our hands?

By Martin Sherman

As a non-observant Jew I was always skeptical towards the claim of my more devout kin-folk that the Temple Mount was the key to the maintenance of Jewish sovereignty over Israel. I was wrong!

It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday this week…The dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayer without a resolution to this current crisis, Events in Jerusalem  have the potential to have catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City, well beyond Israel and Palestine, well beyond the Middle East itself – Nickolay Mladenov, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, January 24, 2017.

When we indulge Arab (and jihadi Muslims’) concerns for honor by backing off anything that they claim offends them, we think that our generosity and restraint will somehow move extremists to more rational behavior. Instead, we end up muzzling ourselves and thereby participating in, honoring, and confirming their most belligerent attitudes… And there is nothing generous, rational, or progressive about that. Prof. Richard Landes, Tablet Magazine, June 24, 2014.

The chain of bloody events that took place over the last week defies both belief and reason. A series of unprovoked Arab assaults on Israelis, inexplicably, inconceivably and infuriatingly triggered a wave of international criticism of …Israel’s defensive responses?

Israel’s regrettable reticence

Of course, in a world where fairness and reason dominated the conduct of international affairs, Israel would have won wall-to-wall sympathy and support—or at the very least, tacit understanding—for its position.  After all, the security measures adopted by Israel in the wake of the murderous attack on its law-enforcement officers in the Temple Mount complex were neither extreme nor excessive. To the contrary, they were entirely reasonable, appropriate—even, one might have thought, unavoidable. Indeed, what could be more natural than enhancing security measures in the wake of a deadly terror attack?

Regrettably, however, international reaction was far from what should have been expected in an imaginary world of fairness and reason.  In the real world, very much the opposite was true—with the onus being placed on Israel to defuse the allegedly explosive situation that the threatened aggression of its foes conjured up.

But no less regrettable was the self-effacing Israeli response to the ridiculous recriminations, which merely helped fan the flames of this absurdity.

Thus, rather than robustly and resolutely repudiating the preposterous accusations concocted against it, Israel endeavored to play the “responsible adult”, in effect, acknowledging that it should shoulder the burden for preventing any violence the Arabs/Muslims might decide to instigate.

Invitation to extortion

Of course, this implies—paradoxically and perversely—that the target of aggression is to blame for whatever befalls him/her, while exonerating the perpetrators of all responsibility for any malfeasance they may choose to initiate.

Unsurprisingly, this ostensibly “mature” and “moderate” behavior won Israel little credit.

Thus, rather than being warmly commended it was roundly condemned.

Indeed, instead of being seen as far-sighted statesmanship and enlightened largesse, it was perceived as a tacit admission of guilt.  With a little forethought this should not have been surprising.  After all, if one believes that the measures one has taken are just and proper, why back away from them? Seen in this light, backing away can only be construed as conceding wrongdoing.

So, by capitulating to threats of violence, the Israeli government has issued a clear invitation for further extortion.  For it has conveyed an unequivocal message of weakness to both friend and foe. Either it is incapable of dealing with threatened Muslim violence or it is unwilling to deal with the consequences of choreographed Muslim ire. But whether it is the lack of ability or the lack of will, there is little difference in the conclusion that will, inevitably, be drawn: There is nothing to prevent further threats to extort further and more far-reaching concessions.

Full disclosure: I was wrong

As a non-observant Jew, whose relationship with the Almighty has been, to say the least, uneasy, I was always skeptical towards my more devout kin-folk’s claim that the Temple Mount was central to the maintenance of Jewish sovereignty.  Although I opposed any Israeli territorial concessions—including on the Temple Mount—I held the belief that the struggle for Jewish control of the site was more incidental than central.

I believed—and in many ways, still do–that the major thrust for presenting Israel’s requirements to endure as the sovereign nation-state of the Jews should be  to underscore the   vital strategic importance of the entire territory across the pre-1967 “Green Line”—and the perilous situation that Israel would be in, should any substantial withdrawal be undertaken.

Accordingly, I felt that there was no need to single out the Temple Mount since it would be self-evident that it would be included in the rest of the territory that Israel needs to retain control over.  Indeed, I thought perhaps that it was better not to give prominence to control of the Mount, so as to prevent rational strategic arguments for retention of territory from being dismissed as tainted with “religious fanaticism”.

Turns out I was wrong!

I was wrong (cont.)

Although I still hold the view that, if Israel is to remain viable as the nation-state of the Jews, it cannot agree to surrendering sovereignty over Judea-Samaria, I am today far more open to the claim that control over the Temple Mount is the key to sustaining Jewish sovereignty. Not because of any strategic imperative but because of a pyscho-political one; not because Jewish zealots see it that way, but because Muslim zealots do.

Nothing will do more to sustain the Muslims’ belief that they can uproot the Jewish presence in all of the Land of Israel, or at least eradicate Jewish sovereignty over it, than   successfully challenging Jewish control over the Jews most sacred site. In Muslim eyes, if they can prise loose the Jews’ hold over the Temple Mount, they can prise it loose over any other site in the land.

For them, if the Jews are willing to forgo control over the Temple Mount to avoid an outburst of Muslim rage, they will be just as ready to forgo such control over Haifa and Tiberias. For if the Jews are perceived as unwilling to take a stand over their most sacrosanct location, in the heart of their capital, why would they be willing to make a sustained stand over any other, less sacrosanct, location whenever a pretext for conflict arises?

“If I can’t bring my machine gun, no point in praying …”

The insufferable absurdity of the opposition to enhanced Israeli security measures—together with the blatant hypocrisy of their coverage by mainstream media—was vividly brought home in a hard hitting video clip presented by Daniel Pomerantz, Senior editor of “Honest Reporting”. Pomerantz expressed his bewilderment at the Muslim response to the setting up of metal-detectors after three Arab terrorists emerged from the Al-Aksa mosque and gunned down two Israeli police officers, with automatic weapons they had smuggled into the compound: “I don’t quite understand the logic in refusing to pass through a metal detector”, adding bitingly—but aptly: “It’s like saying ‘Well, if I can’t bring my machine gun then there’s no point in praying at all’ .”

Pomerantz deftly repudiates Muslim claims that the metal-detectors constitute an Israeli attempt to change the status quo on the compound, pointing out that the status quo had been violated a day earlier by the terror attack itself.  Indeed, as he rightly remarks, the metal-detectors in fact were intended to reinstate the status quo ante, and restore Al-Aksa as a place of worship, rather than an armory.

But of course this meant nothing to the instigators of Arab unrest. For them, any measure, no matter how appropriate or essential for legitimate security exigencies, was merely an   opportunity to mount a challenge to Jewish sovereignty.

Appeasement never satiates, only whets, appetites  

In a recent opinion piece, instructively entitled The problem with the metal detectors is that they are Jewish  Fred Maroun, an Arab, resident in Canada, succinctly summarized the underlying motivation for the Arab resistance to the Israeli security measures:  “Sadly, most Arabs still see Israel as the “Yahudi” enemy that must be vanquished at any cost. Therefore, when Israel backs down from making a change that is rational and reasonable, it constitutes appeasement…” He warns: Appease

He is of course right. As history has shown repeatedly, appeasement never satiates the appetites of an aggressor. It only whets them –with each placatory gesture heightening expectations for additional—and more substantial—concessions in the future.

Similar sentiments were expressed this morning by Education Minister, Naftali Bennett.

To be sure, I have had—and still have—some serious policy disagreements with Bennett, but his comments this morning (July 27, 2017) were spot on. He lamented “…Israel has come out of this crisis considerably weakened. Instead of strengthening our sovereignty in Jerusalem, we sent a message that our sovereignty can be appealed – not just on the Temple Mount, but in other areas as well.

He continued: “The decision to remove the magnetometers [metal-detectors] was definitely the wrong decision. Israel came out of the whole issue weaker…Every time Israel bows to strategic pressure, it harms us in the long run. It harms our ability to deter attacks.

“When they smell weakness…”

Ominously he warned “I expect to see an increase in violence in the next few weeks. We live in the toughest neighborhood in the world. When they smell weakness, they rise up”.

Bennett then urged the PM to rescind all programs designed to improve conditions for the Palestinians and to initiate an assertive plan to combat terror: “The PM must instruct the Defense Minister to take all plans for promoting the Palestinians and offering them ‘carrots’ off the table, and put in their place plans for operations which will end terror.”

It, of course, remains to be seen how firmly and effectively Bennett will insist on implementation of his robust prescription. However, it is clear that he seems to have wide public support for tough measures.

Thus, “Israel Hayom”, usually strongly supportive of Netanyahu, published a blistering condemnation of his performance by its political correspondent, Mati Tuchfeld,  entitled The metal detectors debacle: Netanyahu’s feeble response. In it, Tuchfeld cites a Channel 2 poll according to which, on Tuesday evening, after the removal of the metal-detectors, 77% of the Israeli public felt that the government caved in to pressure, while 67% believed that Netanyahu did not handle this situation well. Moreover, 68% thought that the initial decision to install the metal-detectors was correct.

All of this seems to indicate that the normally hyper-savvy Netanyahu is seriously out of step with his political base—who appear to be demanding a far more  vigorous approach to the emerging challenge to Jewish sovereignty.

“Only way Islam can live with Israeli sovereignty…”

But perhaps the gravest threat of all entailed in a sense of Jewish lack of resolve is the prospect of insurrection and revolt by the Arab citizens of Israel. Indeed, it was a threat clearly evident on Wednesday night (July 26, 2017) in the Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm, where thousands attended the funeral of the three terrorists who recently murdered the two police officers on the Temple Mount. The participants reportedly praised the killers as Shahids (martyrs) of Al-Aksa, vowed to follow in their footsteps and defiantly flew the Palestinian flag.

Clearly, this threat will undoubtedly materialize unless the Arabs are convinced the Jews will brook no challenge – from within Israel’s borders or from without – to their national sovereignty and political independence.

Accordingly, what is called for today is not a repetition of reticent restraint, but the demonstration of ruthless resolve. For unless the Jews convey the unequivocal message that any such challenge to their sovereignty will be met with overwhelming lethal force, they will inevitably be the victims of violent insurrection at the hands of their Arab adversaries.

Allow me to conclude with the words of the learned scholar of Islam, and former IDF intelligence officer, Dr. Mordechai Kedar:

The only way Islam can live with Israeli sovereignty is by recognizing that Israel is strong and invincible, so that any attempt to overcome it is sure to end in defeat… The possibility of a permanent European-style peace with the Jews does not exist in the Middle East, meaning that only power and a willingness to use it will give Israel a temporary peace that will last forever – that is, if Israel is invincible forever. 


Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.




July 28, 2017 | 21 Comments »

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21 Comments / 21 Comments

  1. Martin you had a very wrong position on The Temple Mount for a long time and if only you had a knowledge of Leon Trotsky and the development of his thought it would have saved you decades. Que triste Martin!

    One of the first books I bought in my recent past was that by Joseph Nedava “Trotsky and the Jews”.

    I have some differences with Joseph Nedava. But there is a section in the book in which Trotsky receives a visitor from Palestine.

    This is a very VERY moving interview (from memory about 1937 in Mexico)

    Trotsky as atheist had moved beyond your past position…he held your present position THEN defence of culture and defence of Memory (History)

    I will seek a way to print this interview in full as you may not have the book.

  2. Just to affirm Martin’s hypothesis that weakness won’t solve the problem, here is a quote from Debka;

    Mob violence erupted on Temple Mount Thursday after Israel’s security measures were dismantled, including rocks hurled down at Western Wall Jewish worshippers.

  3. @ Felix Quigley:
    Once government is shrunk to its absolute minimum (i.e. small enough to be drowned in a typical mikveh), it won’t matter whether the Government is run by Lenin or Trotsky (like it is now).

  4. “Accordingly, what is called for today is not a repetition of reticent restraint, but the demonstration of ruthless resolve. For unless the Jews convey the unequivocal message that any such challenge to their sovereignty will be met with overwhelming lethal force, they will inevitably be the victims of violent insurrection at the hands of their Arab adversaries.” (Martin Sherman)


    This is the correct recipe but raises immediately the issue of how?

    One commenter suggests get rid of Netanyahu and my answer to that is definitely that may be an initial first step

    But then what replace with what whom? in the election I was relieved that Labour did not win.

    No alternative leadership in sight in Israel. As for Bennett he believes in making the Arab enemy strong and confident. I feel it is a holding operation for Israel. But not in the way that Netanyahu thinks of a holding operation.

    Leon Trotsky was right. In desperation he came to support the Jewish state in the 1930s but he always knew and stated that an Israel in the time of decaying capitalism is…difficult!

    My idea of a holding operation may be totally different. Get Aaron Klein on the ball here. He has the absurdity of the Islamic position on this mosque well sussed. Use his words to the full. Klein is invaluable.

    Will Ted publish his words? probably not because I doing the suggesting am not Jewish. Worse a Trotskyist!

    Hit el Sisi up the face with those words.

    Write to el Sisi with Klein’s words demand a reply.

    This whole mosque thing may be a blessing in disguise. If you know how to fight. But only a Trotskyist would have the flexibility and boldness….And I know Kedar hates Trotsky and Lenin…

  5. Big Government won’t let Jews pray up on the Temple Mount.

    Jews need to demonstrate a ruthless resolve to reduce the size of government.

  6. Martin is right on the mark.

    Israel needs to reverse its course. Bennett has it correct the government needs to coming out with punitive measures to the Palestinians and stop the capitulation. This weakness clearly has given them hope they can drive the Jews out the Old City to Start.

    Israel needs to come up with a program were any rioters will be rounded and put in outdoor fenced camps in the Negev. Anyone convicted of murder will be executed. Anyone supporting terrorism will be deported to Gaza. Any family members of terrorists will be deported. All their property will be sold or confiscated and given to a victims funds.

  7. True. Acting cannot wait and to start Netanyahu and his ilk must be removed from office.
    Elections to follow but sans generals or other flotsam from the “ranks”.
    New vetted leadership.

  8. @ Ted Belman:
    I also agree with Martin. Easy for me to say, living here in Canada, but whatever happens will have – and is having – repercussions over here.

    I have observed that where “ordinary folks” are concerned, the ability and willingness of Jews to fight, and if necessary to fight ruthlessly, produces great respect, no matter what our “intellectual superiors” say. In other words, the level of anti-semitism (aka: Jew-hatred) is inversely proportional to the willingness of Jews to fight.

    The entire world is dropping into an islamic abyss, Israel included. Better to act sooner than later.

  9. I responded.

    I support Martin’s message i.e., Israel must present an Iron Wall. No concessions. Only resolve.

    That’s the principle. Come what may.

    Yes, I worry about a massive insurrection or conflagration. I don’t worry about those Arab states joining in. They know Iran is their enemy.

    So our choice is to yield or fight. How can yielding be a solution?

  10. Mordechai responds.

    Sorry, wrong example.
    For 157 years they have been propagandized that Al Aqsa means something – there is no historical basis to the claim, and even al Husseini did not buy it, but that is where they are now. All of them, not just the decrepit Sons of Sows in Judea & Samaria.
    Gaza is not a “triggering” episode, and certainly Hamas is not. They all hate Hamas.

    Al Aqsa is the heaviest trigger that exists today. THAT is the great danger.

    I completely agree with your statement: “The problem is that successive Israeli governments have backed away from confrontations that Israel could win…” but I must unfortunately disagree with the idea that this is one we could win.
    The blame begins with Dayan’s stupidity and continues with that of Golda and Rabin. But that is what we have to live and deal with now.

    I think in such a war, we would win the military side but lose very badly in every other aspect.
    Eisenhower said that “In war, logistics is everything”.
    I think that in this war, timing is everything.
    We need patience, and that is the hardest strategic asset that ever exists.

    Time is on our side. We have military, diplomatic, economic and demographic advantage. We need to be careful to continue to grow those and squander them on hasty, ill-timed bravado. That is VERY hard to do.

  11. Martin responds.

    “I think this is a recipe for war, possibly with Egypt, Turkey, Jordon, Saudi. ”

    SO where were they during Operation Defensive Shield???

    The problem is that successive Israeli governments have backed away from confrontations that Israel could win but is backing into one in which it may well lose

  12. Mordechai responds.


    Thank you for responding.
    I assume you mean:
    Accordingly, what is called for today is not a repetition of reticent restraint, but the demonstration of ruthless resolve. For unless the Jews convey the unequivocal message that any such challenge to their sovereignty will be met with overwhelming lethal force, they will inevitably be the victims of violent insurrection at the hands of their Arab adversaries.
    (Actually, third to last)
    I think is a lovely concept, but unfortunately, I think this is a recipe for war, possibly with Egypt, Turkey, Jordon, Saudi. I think this is nearly the only thing that could put those bastards together.
    While if you challenge, I would agree with you that we would inevitably win such a war, but the cost would be intolerable.
    I suggest this is a short-term view and not optimal.
    I shall agree with you that if we see, “violent insurrection …” then this must be met with great force, possibly “ruthless”.
    However, we are not yet strong enough, and they are not yet weak enough, for this to be an optimally effective strategy, but is a short-term tactic.

    In 40 years, there will be no more “Palestinians”. People need to start reading the actual numbers. That is what must direct our strategic resolve.

  13. @ Ted Belman:
    Martin responds:

    I am struggling to understand what you don’t understand – read the last paragraph which is a crystal clear prescription of what should have been–and what should be– done

    You write:

    “… we were set up. And they did a bloody good job of it. They are not stupid.”

    I could not disagree more

    WE allowed ourselves to set up; WE did a bloody poor job; WE are stupid

  14. Mordechai emails Sherman.

    I find your article confusing and confused.
    What do you desire?
    Yes, we were set up. And they did a bloody good job of it. They are not stupid.
    Any response – or no response – would have elicited the exact same reaction from Abbas, Turkey, Saudi, Egypt, Abdullah; because we were set up.
    We should have not reacted in the first place? Is that what you mean when you say “foresight”?
    Or should the response have been elsewhere?
    You give no hints at what you are actually suggesting, only criticism of what occurred. Sorry, that is not helpful to OUR side. It simply joins the chorus.
    So, I repeat, what exactly was the point to this well-worded, but regrettably confused, article?

  15. Well I’m seeing history here, The first damned time that I agree with Sherman, or actually, the first time that he has agreed with me. I’ve been posting this from the very beginning, the very first day. And for most of the previous months and years..

    There is no point in making any nicey-nicey with any Arabs; they want our blood in a myriad of different ways, and they’re getting it daily, and this will continue until the last Jew is slaughtered…unless we do what we should have been doing all the time. Throw away the polite very correct political language and tell them what’s what in plain, easy-to-understand, language..

    A golden opportunity was just missed which would have conveyed our message better than ANY amount of blather . When the fuss began over the magnetometers our immediate answer should have been ..”They Are Staying”… and then add, “we will shoot any rioters immediately”.

    And when the Jordan mess came about they should have told the humpty-dumpty midget kinglet, with the padded chest full of home-grown medals, that “if you don’t send back our people right away, WE WILL COME OVER AND GET THEM..and you know what that will mean for you”…..

    We are Ghetto cowards. Can’t get it out of our systems. We had a brief awakening in the Diaspora and parts of Europe during the War and after, when Israel was re-founded. But those strong, implacable men and women are long gone and we are now ruled by -G-D save the Mark – “statesmen” whose main expertise is staying in power by any means, with a taste in fine brandies, cigars and first class luxury travel. They’re becoming as well known as our technological (but not martial) abilities.

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