As the tensions on Temple Mont continue to sizzle, Israel’s minister of the internal security Gil’ad Ardan has vowed that Israel would scrupulously observe the status quo on the site and not allow the Waqf (the Muslim governing body for the compound) to make any lasting changes, including the building a new mosque.
Current round of tensions arose when the Waqf opened an access point to the Mount through the Gate of Mercy, a point that was walled off by Israel in 2003 due to security concerns. A Molotov cocktail thrown by an Arab youth at the Israeli police earlier in the week caused Israel to close the compound to visitors and worshipers, though it has now been reopened.
Tension on the site of the Second Temple and the Al-Aqsa mosque have been an ongoing problem ever since immediately following Israeli liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem, then minister of defense Moshe Dayan unilaterally decided to lower the Israeli flag from the top of the Mount and return control of the site to the religious Muslim authorities with no strings attached. Wholesale deliberate destruction of priceless antiquities by the Waqf followed and continues to this day.
Currently, Israel and Jordan are conducting talks designed to return a modicum of coexistence to the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem in general. Both sites are a major tourist draw and a pilgrim destination for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Many tourists combine visits to Jerusalem with tours of the Christian sites in the Palestinian territories in Judea and of the Kingdom of Jordan, making settling any security concerns an economic imperative for everyone involved.
In the tug of war between economic interests and political grandstanding that surrounds the Temple Mount and Jerusalem in general, it is in everyone’s interest to make sure that the zealots do not win the day.