For fifty years since the Six Day War, June 1967, peace efforts in the Middle East have defied solution. In 1967 the UN Security Council Resolution, called for the ‘withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
When that failed it launched more peace attempts proposing land for peace suggestions. Then there was little momentum until after the Yom Kippur or October War in 1973.
US President Carter addressed the ‘Palestinian Problem.” That faltered because ‘the Palestinians’ were not party to the agreement made between Egypt and Israel. The Oslo Agreement came in 1993 where the Palestinian Liberation Organization was represented by Yasser Arafat. President Bill Clinton tried again at Camp David 2000.
An Arab Peace Initiative followed in 2002. President George W. Bush was the first US president to propose a Palestinian State during Roadmap 2003.
Is there something the world’s most popular and respected peace advocates have missed? I believe so. The ancient prophet Zechariah warned Jerusalem would be a stumbling block (Zechariah chapter 12). He described Jerusalem as ‘a burdensome stone.’ In reference to that ancient illustration, it describes young men who attempt to lift a stone too heavy for them. Not only will they fail, but they will suffer injuries from the effort. What an apt description of the Middle East peace process?
On a flight into Israel my companion was an Arab journalist who worked out of Ramallah. As we began the descent over Jerusalem he nudged me and pointed out the window towards the Temple Mount. “Do you see down there? That’s the Temple Mount, the integral issue dividing all of us.”
I knew what he meant. The Temple Mount is a walled-in area in the south-eastern corner of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a location I have visited many times, absorbed by the historic and religious significance to be found there. Solomon built the temple there . (2 Chronicles chapter 3, verse 1). On this location the Lord appeared to David answering him with fire from heaven. The Bible describes Abraham offering up his son for sacrifice on Mount Moriah. (Genesis chapter 22, verses 1-18). This is a significantly sacred place!
On Jerusalem Day last May, the Israeli cabinet assembled on what they call ‘the holiest place in Judaism.’ The prime minister said ‘Here King Solomon built the First Holy Temple, and in this place, those who returned from the Babylonian exile built the Second Holy Temple.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, it served for thousands of years as a gathering place for the Jewish people. Thousands of years later, the nation of Israel returned to its land.” Those words highlight the deep passion for the Temple Mount held by the Jewish people.
It is significant for Moslems too. The Koran refers to it as ‘the furthermost place’, From here the Prophet Mohammed, accompanied by the Angel Gabriel, made the Night Journey to the Throne of God, according to Koran, Sura Al-Isra’ 17:1.
Some will be surprised to learn the control of the Temple Mount is administered by the waqf, an Islamic religious trust, financed by the King of Jordan. After Israel won the six-day war, they allowed the waqf administrative authority of this place Arabs call Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).
“The Noble Sanctuary is one of the three most important sites in Islam, a focus for Islamic worship and learning for nearly fourteen centuries, that continues as an important religious and educational centre for Muslims to the present day, according to noblesanctuary.com.
The waqf manage the Temple Mount complex and the rules are stringent. Non-Muslims (Israelis and tourists) are allowed to visit the Temple Mount at fixed times, but do not enter the al-Aqsa Mosque itself: they visit other parts of the site and usually walk around the large open spaces. In addition, Jews and other non-Muslims are not permitted to pray on the Temple Mount.
The Dome of the Rock is the most recognizable structure in the area. Restoration on the gold leaf dome was done in 1994. It is the third holiest site in Islam after Ka’aba (Mecca) and the Prophet’s Mosque (Medina)
As this structure stands on or near the site regarded by Jews as ‘the Holy of Holies’, it is an integral part of the peace talks. With such sacred importance to all, you can see why the Temple Mount might be the most effective ‘stumbling block’ to a negotiated peace.
Last August President Trump dispatched a delegation to the Middle East to find grounds for compromise between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The US team led by Trump adviser and son in law Jarred Kushner were getting PA warning vibes from the start of the visit. As they arrived this announcement came:
“The movement (Fatah) emphasizes the fact that Israel is an occupying power and she has no sovereignty in east Jerusalem and certainly not over the Al Aqsa Mosque, including all the mosques at the compound, the Dome of the Rock, its courtyards and its walls.” It went on: “On the 48th anniversary of the burning of the mosque by an Australian Zionist, we emphasize that Jerusalem and especially Al Aqsa are inseparable parts of the land that was occupied in 1967.” They certainly left no wriggle room for the peace talks.
David Ben Gurion, Israel Prime Minister, 1947 said: “No city in the world, not even Athens or Rome, ever played as great a role in the life of a nation for so long a time, as Jerusalem has done in the life of the Jewish people.” While that devotion and passion continues, compromise is impossible.
(Note: Michael Rohan “the Australian Zionist” set fire to the Al Aqsa mosque pulpit on 21 August, 1969. Rohan was arrested, tried and found to be insane. In 1995 he died in Callen Park Hospital, Lilyfield. NSW, at that time he was still under psychiatric care).
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html