Over the years, Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators have considered the status of Jerusalem to be among the last issues to tackle because the complex mix of politics and religion stirs deep passions. As we see today, these can turn volatile with deadly consequences.
Two Israeli prime ministers, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, offered creative proposals that recognized both Israeli and Palestinian connections to Jerusalem. But Palestinian leaders spurned those ideas—which included sharing the Old City and the Temple Mount—as they rejected comprehensive peace plans in 2000, 2001, and 2008 that could have resolved the conflict.
Instead, Palestinian leaders, backed by Arab and Muslim countries including Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries that signed peace treaties with Israel, have consistently propagated myths about Israeli designs on the Temple Mount, nurturing a disingenuous narrative that rejects any Jewish link to the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall, and denies the fact that Jewish temples existed there thousands of years ago.
Truth is the first casualty in conflicts.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have in essence murdered truth, making it into another Palestinian “martyr.”
On Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders have in essence murdered truth, making it into another Palestinian “martyr.” And what’s worse, much of the media and many world leaders are compliant in the crime.
Secretary of State John Kerry calls for “clarity” on the status of the Temple Mount, as if there is something unclear.
France seeks a U.N. Security Council resolution to send international observers “to protect” the Temple Mount. And U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemns “extremists” on both sides, equating Israel’s defensive responses with the actions of Palestinian terrorists.
World leaders should be speaking out clearly, loudly, and unequivocally in support of Israel’s longstanding commitment, in word and deed, to the status quo on the Temple Mount.
From 1948-1967, when Jordan controlled the Old City, Jews were denied access to the Western Wall, and synagoues were destroyed.
Today, Prime Minister Netanyahu's repeated affirmations of Israeli policy protecting all religious sites, ensuring Muslim access to mosques, are drowned out by continuous, vehement hostility.
One voice of reason in the current discussion is UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who warned that a Palestinian proposal to declare the Western Wall an “integral part” of Al Aqsa mosque could be seen to alter the status of the Old City and “further incite tensions.”
While the Western Wall language was removed at the last minute, the UNESCO Executive Board adopted a resolution Wednesday condemning Israel for “attempts to break the status quo” on the Temple Mount. Only six out of the board’s 58 members -- the United States, Britain, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, and the Netherlands -- voted “no."
Abbas made a calculated decision to force Jerusalem front and center with a combination of violence and appeals for U.N. actions to pressure Israel.
To what end? Israel, after all, has called on Abbas to return to the direct, bilateral peace talks he abandoned in April 2014.
Characterizations of the youthful Palestinian perpetrators of the current wave of attacks on Israelis as individuals acting independently is another bold-faced myth generated by Palestinian leaders who take no responsibility for the violence they have inspired.
Abbas opened his U.N. General Assembly address last month with a call for action to defend not just al-Aqsa, but the entire Al Haram Al Sharif – the Arabic term for the Temple Mount – against alleged Israeli designs. Before coming to New York, he had encouraged Palestinian protestors to guard against Jews traversing the Temple Mount with their "filthy feet."
“The inflammatory rhetoric of Abbas and Palestinian Authority officials and media outlets was sufficient to drive any Palestinian to murder Jews,” Khaled Abu Toameh, the veteran Israeli Palestinian journalist, observed in a Gatestone Institute column.
At the U.N., Abbas announced the Palestinian Authority would no longer abide by the agreements it had signed with Israel, and he called on the “United Nations to provide international protection for the Palestinian people.”
Jerusalem, along with all the other outstanding issues, can and should be resolved in direct, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But first, to get the peace process back on track, Palestinian leadership must end their incitement and glorification of violence. That’s a message Secretary Kerry should be delivering firmly to Abbas, and to Jordan’s King Abdullah, when they meet.
Kenneth Bandler is the American Jewish Committee's director of media relations.