Over the last week a series of escalating events on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif has threatened peace and security at the holy site and for Jerusalem as a whole. Ir Amim have created the following primer to help make sense of these rapidly spiraling events and to raise the call for a swift, agreed resolution of the current conflict.
By Ir Amim
The current escalation of events at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound (also known as Al Aqsa compound, the Noble Sanctuary, the Esplanade, the compound) began last Friday with a heinous attack that claimed the lives of two Israeli police officers. The three perpetrators, who descended from the compound, fled back to the Mount, where they were shot and killed by security forces. The government then issued orders to close the compound entirely for two consecutive days.
The fact that events took place in and around the most sensitive and highly contested site in Jerusalem – itself a core issue of the conflict – clearly heightens security concerns and creates a situation meriting special consideration. “Appropriate measures” is naturally a relative concept and Israelis and Palestinians clearly diverge on how they perceive the situation. Of central concern is the degree to which security measures may or may not disturb the fragile status quo at the site. The anomalous closure of Al-Aqsa for two consecutive days may largely be interpreted as a security measure for Israelis. For Palestinians, it is a severe abridgment of their religious rights and an upending of the status quo.
The status quo
The status quo in place since 1967 concerns management and security arrangements on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif that were recognized in the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994. Three critical considerations are: 1) the primacy of Muslim prayer rights, e.g. over the right of Jews to visit the site; 2) the division of management authority, which stipulates the Muslim Waqf (religious trust) will manage the inside of the compound and its holy sites while Israel maintains authority for security around the perimeter; and 3) entry arrangements. Determining when the status quo has been breached is tricky, particularly given that it is not written down and in light of the delicacy of how to develop an appropriate security response at times such as these. What is important to underscore is that perception matters and all events that happen on the...Read More