The Status Quo Myth
With tensions still high in Jerusalem and throughout the rest of Israel, the latest buzzword that is being bounced around in the regional and international media is “status quo”. More specifically, Israel is accused by the Arabs and their supporters of trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount while senior government officials in Washington praise Israel for easing restrictions to Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount in order to preserve the status quo.
Similarly, within Israel itself various Jewish MKs criticize other Jewish MKs who insist on ascending the Temple Mount with charges that they're aggravating an already tense situation with the Arabs while the chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel goes even further and blames Jews who ascend the Temple Mount with provoking Arab terror and causing Jewish blood to flow (a charge which is akin to blaming the raped rather than the rapist).
In such a situation, how could anyone question the validity of the claim that Israel is trying to change the status quo, for if everyone talks about it, it must be true?
Nevertheless and with all due respect to the purveyors of disinformation, the truth is there is no clearly defined existing state or condition, otherwise known as a status quo, between the Jewish and Arab populations in Israel. In fact, one can argue that the very opposite is true and that the state of affairs between the two groups is not static but rather has been changing for years. Still further and contrary to the current claim, this ongoing shift in relations has been mainly to the detriment of the Jews, and not the Arabs.
Already for years the Arabs in many parts of the country have become increasingly brazen in their disrespect for any semblance of Israeli sovereignty. Although it's certainly not every Israeli Arab, overall there's a clear trend in the direction of growing radicalization and mounting anti-Israel sentiment amongst the Arab population of Israel.
Moreover, when one looks at the total bedlam engulfing the region ever since the beginning of the Arab Spring – the uprising, so we were told, which was to usher in a new era of peace and democracy in the region – the trend in Israel should not come as a surprise.
I personally witnessed this on a visit to a kibbutz in the normally tranquil Jezreel Valley two summers ago when our night-time barbecue was interrupted by the menacing sound of gunshots emanating from the nearby Arab village. When I asked one of the members of the kibbutz if this was something new, the young man, who for more than two hours was on the phone pleading with the police and regional security officers to get involved, explained that this insanity had been going on for more than three years and that despite the periodic direct hit of a bullet on a kibbutz home nothing was being done since the police were afraid to enter the Arab village.
He then explained, as did members of a nearby kibbutz the following day, that in addition to the occasional Arab attack, Arab thefts in the region were out of control and that nothing was being done to stop it.
This is just one small example, far from the Temple Mount, of what has been taking place in Israel in recent years. Once again, this is not to suggest that each and every Israeli Arab is becoming increasingly radicalized and aggressively hostile to Israeli sovereignty. There are plenty of Arabs in Israel that are not this way. Nevertheless, like their Arab brethren in other parts of the Middle East, they are practically irrelevant when it comes to halting the frightening changes that are taking place.
Regarding the Temple Mount, the situation is horrific. While everyone, Jew and non-Jew, have open access to the Kotel (the Western Wall), Jews have been discriminated against for years on the Temple Mount. Yet despite the fact that their rights are trampled upon by the Islamic authority that basically controls the Temple Mount, and this frequently with the tacit approval of the Israeli authorities, no one seems to care.
Even now, as Israel is applauded for removing age restrictions for Muslim worshippers on the Temple Mount, restrictions that were put in place due to the ongoing Arab violence against Israeli police, the amount of Jews allowed to visit the Temple Mount has been drastically reduced. From now on, no more than five Jews at one time are allowed to visit the holiest site in the world according to Judaism. And if that isn't enough, like usual they're prohibited by the Islamic officials on the Temple Mount, under threat of expulsion from the site, from reciting any type of prayer or even moving their lips in what appears to be a prayer.
So the fact that more and more Jews want to express their Jewish identity by visiting the Temple Mount has nothing to do with any status quo, be it real or imagined. Rather, as has been the case ever since the Oslo process began twenty-one years ago, the Arabs are using their effective weapon of combined violence, threats and baseless fabrications in order to coerce Israel into making yet more concessions. This in turn creates a new and updated “status quo”, one that will inevitably change following the next round of Arab aggression. The pattern is oh-so-familiar.
Nevertheless and despite the ample evidence that confirms these ongoing changes in Israel, be it in the north, south or Jerusalem, many Israeli Jews still prefer to keep their head in the sand rather than facing this unpleasant reality.
Yoel Meltzer is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. He can be contacted via http://yoelmeltzer.com