The Islamic Waqf’s jurisdiction over the Temple Mount is over and Israel will now work to reestablish Jewish sovereignty over the holy site, said Knesset Member Avi Dichter (Likud) on Tuesday.
“Israel is the sovereign on the Temple Mount, period. The fact that the Waqf became a sovereign on the Temple Mount ended last Friday,” declared Dichter, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and former head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), on Israeli public radio, Israel National News reported.
“The question of our policy [at the Temple Mount] may not be clear to the Palestinians, but it is very clear to us… The Mount will remain under the control of the Israel Police.”
The move comes in the wake of the events of last Friday, when three Palestinian terrorists used the holy site to launch a terror attack against Israeli forces, killing two Israeli police officers. Israel closed the Temple Mount to all visitors in its aftermath, sparking Muslim outrage worldwide.
However, when the site was reopened on Sunday, Muslim visitors recoiled at new security measures instituted as a result of the attack and refused to enter in protest. The measures include the installation of metal detectors at the entrances used by Muslim worshipers. Waqf officials balked, refusing to ascend to the site and calling for a widespread boycott.
A Waqf statement released on Monday urged Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”
The so-called “status quo”, an unwritten agreement on governance of the site by which Israel abides, forbids Jewish prayer on the Mount so as not to agitate Muslims. However, as a result of the Waqf ban, Jews are free to ascend to the Temple Mount without a hostile Waqf escort for the first time in decades and are seizing the rare opportunity to pray on the holiest site to Judaism.
According to Dichter, the Waqf boycott will initiate a massive shift in how the Temple Mount is controlled. While Israeli security forces patrol the Mount, the Waqf, until now, has held sovereignty there, creating an inhospitable and unpleasant environment for all non-Muslim visitors.
“They are trying to create a situation in which it is problematic for Jews to go up to the Temple Mount,” Dichter explained. “Al-Aqsa Mosque is considered the third-holiest place in Islam, so just like non-Muslims are not allowed to enter Mecca or Medina, they want to create the same situation on the Temple Mount.
“But the Mount will remain under the control of the Israel Police.”
Indeed, on Saturday the Waqf itself said in a statement that it had lost its control over the Temple Mount, calling the Israeli decision to close the compound “aggression against the faith and history of the Islamic nation.” The accusation is ironic in the extreme, as Islamic and Muslim forces are deeply engaged in a wholesale attempt to literally usurp all historical Jewish connection and claim to to the Temple Mount, Jerusalem and Israel itself.
Should Israel use the unexpected opportunity to take back control of the Temple Mount, the significance and implications would be beyond imagining. The Mount has not been under lasting Jewish control for thousands of years. If Israel succeeds in regaining sovereignty, it will be a triumph worthy of two millennia of Jewish prayer and longing, not to mention an unprecedented opportunity to begin reconstruction of the Mount and Temple as they were in Biblical days.