Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using Al-Aqsa Mosque in his election campaign. What’s more, he has allied himself with extreme right-wing groups in Israel, and will not stand against them.
The timing of Israel’s General Election next month puts pressure on everyone, but playing the Aqsa card is dangerous. Involving the mosque in electoral calculations will lead to serious repercussions. The period from now to the election and beyond is critical.
We must pose questions to Jordan and to the Palestinian Authority about this, even though we know that the defence of the Noble Sanctuary at a popular level is most important, as it is the people who are on the ground in Al-Aqsa when threats occur. This has been witnessed many times, and Israel is really afraid of such popular support for resistance to its attempts to take over the mosque.
We must ask the authorities in Jordan what they will do as and when Israel’s threats increase. The Kingdom itself is facing pressure, as the Israeli government wants to end Jordan’s custodianship of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa and other religious sites in the occupied Palestinian territories. That pressure includes daily Israeli incursions at the Noble Sanctuary. Israel also threatens to change the religious identity of the holy site and arrests Al-Aqsa Mosque guards who are actually employed by the Jordanian government. The increase in the challenges facing Al-Aqsa includes the Israeli threat to convert Al-Rahma Mosque within the Sanctuary into a synagogue.
The second question is for the Palestinian Authority, which has not lifted a finger in defence of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Compound, despite its sensitivity on a political as well as a religious level. Let us not forget that the Noble Sanctuary is in occupied Jerusalem, which the PA insists is going to be the capital of an independent State of Palestine. There are bound to be implications for this when the details of the US “deal of the century” are finally revealed. This deal is likely to be intended to eradicate the Palestinian cause, especially custodianship of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa, by excluding Jerusalem from all future discussions. So how long can the PA stand idly by in the face of this, acting in a quasi-neutral manner and leaving Al-Aqsa in Israel’s hands? Threats to the Sanctuary are not addressed in any of the PA’s statements and it does not support any popular action such as a third intifada or any alternative resistance activities.
Occupied Palestine’s neighbours are experiencing their most difficult times. The situation in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and even Iraq is at its worst, with the governments unable to resolve their problems which affect everyone. Moreover, the Palestinian cause, which once prompted demonstrations across the Arab and Muslim world, is no longer capable of mobilising governments and people. It is as if the Ummah has been put under a soporific spell.
Of course, Netanyahu is facing corruption charges, so may be eliminated on that basis alone, but we cannot afford to simply hope that that will happen. We need to take action instead of standing by and watching what is going on, especially with the Israelis making daily efforts to push at the limits of what is acceptable to the regional powers. Doing nothing will allow Israel to deal a major blow to the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa and change its identity in a radical and dangerous manner.
The people must mobilise in and for Al-Aqsa and be prepared for worst case scenarios. The Palestinians and the Jordanians will be Israel’s targets, and Arab, regional and international transformations will come to bear on the situation. The forthcoming “deal of the century” may blow the Arab facade off the Palestinian cause at the worst possible time for the region.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Ghad on 7 March 2019