The Temple Mount and its connection to the conflict

What is the “Temple Mount”?

The Temple Mount is an elevated area in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is the site where two ancient Jewish temples once stood. Tthe first temple was built by King Solomon the son of King David in 957 BC and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BC and destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 AD. In the seventh century Jerusalem was conquered by an invading Arab army and two Muslim religious sites were constructed on the site: the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque. Because of this history the Temple Mount is considered sacred to both Jews and Muslims.

What is the Temple Mount “status quo”?

Between 1948 and 1967 the Old City of Jerusalem, what is now referred to as “East Jerusalem”, and the West Bank were under Jordanian control and Jews were forbidden access to the Temple Mount. When Israel gained control of all of these areas in the 1967 war, an Israeli policy was established allowing Jews to visit the Temple Mount but Jewish prayer there was forbidden. This policy remains in place today and is referred to as the “status quo”. The Temple Mount is administered by the Jordanian Waqf, a Muslim religious authority. Israel is responsible for security on the Temple Mount.

What is the opposition to the Temple Mount status quo?

Some Israeli Jews actively oppose the ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount and have lobbied to get the ban lifted, citing freedom of religion. The ban remains in place, is enforced by Jerusalem police, and violations of the prohibition on Jewish prayer can lead to arrest. At the same time, some Palestinians want Jews to be prohibited from even visiting the Temple Mount and reject the idea of the Temple Mount as shared religious space. Some Palestinians have promoted a narrative that no Jewish temple ever existed on the Temple Mount. This narrative has no basis in fact and the past existence of Jewish temples on the site is irrefutable.

How has the Temple Mount been used to incite violence?

Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount have sometimes been harassed or assaulted by Palestinians, and some Jewish visitors have engaged in hostile verbal confrontations with Palestinians on the Temple Mount. When violence has erupted Israeli security has intervened to enforce the law and maintain peace and order.

Episodes of violence and rioting on the Temple Mount have led to intervention by Israeli security and occasional temporary restrictions on access to the site. Palestinians seeking to incite violent confrontation with Israel have claimed such episodes as evidence that Israel has plans to take over or even destroy the Muslim religious sites on the Temple Mount, in particular the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and to ban Muslims from accessing them. These accusations are untrue.

Such incitement has been instrumental in the recent explosion of violent knife attacks by Palestinians on Israeli Jews. Palestinians engaging in these acts have been led to believe their acts are in defense of Israeli plots to take over or destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is the incitement referred to by Israeli leaders.

Is there a basis for Palestinian accusations regarding the Temple mount?

It is true that some Israeli Jews have lobbied politically for the right to pray at the Temple Mount, but accusations that the “status quo” has been changed by the government of Israel are simply false and without basis. Israeli laws banning Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount remain in place and are enforced. The Western Wall remains the primary site for Jewish prayer in the Old City.

There are no proposals being considered by the Israeli government to construct a new Jewish temple on the Temple Mount or demolish the Muslim sites there. Claims that the government of Israel or “Israeli authorities” support such ideas are false, inflammatory, and nothing more than libels intended to incite senseless violence.

Finally, there is no evidence that temporary restrictions on Palestinian access to the Temple Mount are part of a Jewish conspiracy to permanently ban access to the Temple Mount by Muslims. Such temporary restrictions have been triggered by outbreaks of violence on the Temple Mount, and have always been lifted once violence has ended and order restored. There is no basis to assert that this policy has been changed.