As holy as it is to the Jewish people, Israel has no problem bargaining with the Temple Mount for perceived political gain. After liberating the sacred plateau from hostile Muslim rule in 1967, Israel promptly handed it back to a hostile Muslim body, the Jordanian Waqf.
Now the Saudis are saying that the most important thing to them in a peace deal with Israel is greater influence over the Temple Mount and guarantees regarding the “rights” of Muslims at the site.
Israeli media this week covered a recent survey conducted by the Washington Institute to discover what average Saudis most hope to get in return from normalization with Israel.
Many might assume, and the Palestinians certainly hoped, that a Palestinian state would be at the top of the Saudis’ list. But it wasn’t.
According to the survey, the thing Saudis most want (46% of respondents) from a peace deal with Israel is “guaranteeing the rights of Muslims at the Al-Aqsa Mosque” (ie. Temple Mount).
Advancement toward a Palestinian state was the top priority for only 36% of Saudis polled by the Washington Institute.
See related: Cartoon War: Saudi Arabia Vs. the Palestinians
Rounding out the list of priorities were American military aid (18%) and cooperation from the US on developing Saudi nuclear power (16%).
On the one hand, Saudi sentiments make reaching a normalization agreement easy, noted Israeli expert Asher Fredman, a senior researcher at the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy.
Freeman told Israel Hayom that the findings reveal that all Israel need do to satisfy Saudi public opinion is to continue doing what it already does – maintain freedom of worship for Muslims at the Temple Mount.
Riyadh has also been angling for some time for greater influence at the Temple Mount, even though many Saudis say the site isn’t really all that important to Islam.
Saudi Arabia already controls Islam’s first and second most holy sites, so why not its third? That, too, is something Israel would probably prefer. Far better to work with a friendly Saudi regime than the venomous, Palestinian-influenced Jordanian Waqf.
But it again raises the question: Is Israel truly sovereign in its own land, and in particular in the Holy City of Jerusalem, if it doesn’t control the Temple Mount, if Jews still can’t pray at Judaism’s holiest site?
What is Jerusalem without the Temple Mount, the place where God chose to inscribe His name?
And what is Israel without Jerusalem?
See related: Do the Jews Have Sovereignty in Jerusalem?
Last year, when Ramadan coincided with Passover and the Temple Mount was the site of heightened tensions, an Israel Democracy Institute survey found that most Israeli Jews were tired of bargaining with their holiest site, and demanded true sovereignty, now. Half of all respondents said that at the very least, Jews should be allowed to pray at the Temple Mount.
Trading one Muslim landlord for another – even if the latter is better in every way – does this advance Israel’s restoration?
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