Recently I cited a phrase from an old sit-com, “What a revolting development!” I got the citation wrong, but never mind. The sentiment was right.
And what I must tell you now is that our current situation is not just unacceptable, it is a revolting development.
I watched it unfold in the course of the day yesterday, with great unease.
Bad enough that the whole Muslim world was carrying on about the metal detectors we had placed at the entrances to the Temple Mount on July 14th, following a terror attack that utilized guns that had been stored on the Mount.
Bad enough that NO ONE stood up for Israel, saying that the Muslim Arabs were severely over-reacting and that Israel had every right to institute security measures after guns had been stored on the Mount. That the Temple Mount was open and available for visitation and Muslim prayer – so what was their problem? NO ONE pointed out that preventing terrorists from using their mosque to store weapons should be part of the Muslim agenda too.
NO ONE, including President Trump.
Bad enough that Trump sent his envoy Jason Greenblatt here yesterday to “reduce tensions.” Greenblatt first held a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Ambassador David Friedman, and then hopped over to Jordan for a chat with King Abdullah.
I am certain that Greenblatt did not pat Netanyahu on the back and said, Bibi, my friend, your position is the correct one. Undoubtedly, what was discussed were ways to “diffuse” Muslim anger. There was concern expressed about the possibility of riots in Jordan about the detectors.
All of this wasn’t enough. Then there was a crisis in Jordan, as well:
An Israeli security officer at the Israeli Embassy in Amman was stabbed in the stomach with a screwdriver. Defending himself, the officer pulled out his gun and shot, wounding the Jordanian, who subsequently died. A second Jordanian who was in the line of fire also died.
Then all hell broke loose and the Jordanians went bananas.
First, they demanded the right to take custody of the Israeli security officer to “interrogate” him. But this was in clear defiance of international law, which gave him immunity as a member of a diplomatic mission.
Apparently international law only counts when the issue is what Israel “must” do: They said this man could not return to Israel until they had “interrogated” him. The entire diplomatic mission – some eight people – said they would remain with him.
To emphasize their position, the Jordanians also announced that any Jew caught praying in Jordan would be arrested. In fact, the Jordanian police came into a hotel where a group of hareidi men were staying, intending to pray at the Tomb of Aharon, and confiscated some of their tallitot and tfillin.
Did anyone in our government notice this? Did anyone care?
(Please, do not write and ask me how this could happen, because I have no answer. I only know it is not acceptable.)
The Jordanians knew precisely what they were doing.
The Jordanian insistence on holding our security guard smelled like a hostage situation in the making. However, the party holding our man was not Hamas, but, rather, a nation with which we are supposed to have a peace treaty.
Netanyahu got on the phone with the security guard and promised him that he would bring him home. This was well publicized.
The prime minister then sent head of the Shin Bet Nadav Argaman to Amman to hold discussions with the Jordanians.
At the same time meetings were held with Jordan’s Ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat and others. Netanyahu let it be known that he was working on defusing the situation.
When Argaman returned, he consulted with the prime minister.
Then, late last night, it was announced that the entire Israeli delegation in Jordan, including the wounded security guard, had come over the Allenby Bridge and was home. (I read one report that said Israel had allowed a Jordanian official to come into the embassy to question the guard there.)
Netanyahu touted this as a “victory.” See? I said I’d bring you home!
A statement released by the prime minister’s office very late last night said that the resolution of the crisis was possible because of talks held between Israel and Jordan “in a cooperative atmosphere.”
The statement from the prime minister’s office also said that there was no Jordanian demand that the metal detectors be taken down in return for release of the security guard.
Well, I would say we’re dealing with semantics here. Netanyahu knew quite well that he would have to give King Abdullah something in return for release of the guard who never should have been held in the first place. It is my understanding that Argaman – who was opposed to the detectors from the start – told him as much. The king was dealing with an angry mob in the Jordanian street. So maybe the Jordanians didn’t demand this, maybe Netanyahu offered.
Whatever the case, it seems clear that there was a tie-in between the release of the guard and the dismantling of the detectors.
The Security Cabinet met, approved the dismantling, and in short order – probably at about dawn today – the work was begun. (Approval was not unanimous – Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked from Habayit Hayehudi were opposed.)
The story is not at an end, however.
With the dismantlement of the detectors also came removal of the cameras that had just been put up days before. They were “too invasive” for the Muslim rioters. Originally the Security Cabinet had envisioned that while replacements for the detectors (about which more following) were being considered, there would at least be the cameras.
But this will not be the case.
Yet even so, the Arab leaders and the Waqf are not recommending that people go up to the Mount yet. They want to “inspect” the situation first.
What they are demanding is that the situation be returned precisely to what it was on July 14, before the metal detectors were installed.
This will not happen, however. A decision was made by the Security Cabinet to increase police presence in the area, and, I believe, to keep up some barriers.
The Security Cabinet did vote for a replacement for the detectors. Extensive discussions had been held between Israeli Police and security firms in order to arrive at the best solution. Backing down on maintaining the detectors may have been ill-advised, but no one in the Israeli government is suggesting a return to the situation as of July 14.
Slated to replace the metal detectors are less visible hi-tech cameras that have the capacity to detect explosives and weapons. They also have a face-recognition facility. In the end, they are a more sophisticated and more effective solution.
There are problems, however: The cost is in the neighborhood of 100 million shekels, and it will take months to secure this equipment and place it.
And so, we have the open question of what happens between now and the time when that new equipment can be put in place.
And then, what the PA and the Waqf will say about the equipment.
We already have a pretty good idea:
The Waqf has said that its position is
“to reject outright any changes, including technological measures….the gates of the mosque should be opened to Muslim worshippers in a completely free manner…” (Emphasis added)
http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.803319 (With thanks to Saul G.)
I do not have clarity on the question of whether the Jordanians said the less invasive hi-tech equipment would be satisfactory to them, although I read one report that suggests so.
More to follow…