What is the key to Israeli-Palestinian peace?
The past few weeks the United States, Israel, and Palestinian Authority have been engaged in talks that would bring about a peaceful arrangement for a Jewish state and a Palestinian state to live side by side in peace. This is yet one of among many attempts to come to some sort of deal with this end goal in mind. This plan called for Israel to release prisoners that were either convicted on conducting terrorist acts against Israel or in some way had a hand in a terrorist act against Israel. In return, Palestine would agree to partake in further talks through January 2015 and refrain from seeking membership into United Nations-backed treatise with other states.
Just in the past few days, this round of talks seems to have already been undermined by what the Jerusalem Post quotes one Israeli official as saying is being “stuck and not out of the crises.” The US envoy leading these discussions, Martin Indyk, has returned to the US during Passover for “consultation” on how to proceed once the holiday in Israel is over. This round of talks has until 29 April to come to some sort of agreement either on the terms currently on the table, which many believe is possible, or risk reverting back to a period of non-negotiation between the two parties.
This, like all of the previous attempts to broker a deal, seems to be hinging on coming to terms with political differences between the two sides. Whether it be the so called “right of return” sought by the Palestinian Authority for Palestinians in refuge camps to return to lands they claim were stolen from them or Israel’s insistence that the PA do more to fight the many terrorist elements launching attacks on Israeli citizens, the break downs almost always originate with issues that have no cultural or religious impetus. However, what is never reported on in Western media is the ongoing battle between the Israelis and the Arabs over the situation on the Temple Mount, or Mount Moriah.
For the Jews, the establishment of a Third Temple is of cultural significance to the solidification of a Jewish State in the Middle East. Along with its very important religious role for the people of Israel, it also serves as a symbol of permanence for the existence of Israel after nearly a century of constant battle against its neighbors who have all sworn to destroying the Jewish State. For the Muslims, the construction of a Third Temple would mean a blemish on the heritage of Islamic civilization and the destruction of what they claim to be the third holiest site in Islam.
Some solutions to this impasse involve establishing different prayer times for Jews and Muslims on the actual grounds of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Writing in the Foreign Policy Journal, Ramzy Baroud, no friend to Israel based on the descriptions he uses for the claims made by Israel, says that Likud Party member Miri Regev wants to introduce what is called the Ibrahimi Model to the Temple Mount. “We will reach a situation where the Temple Mount will be like the Cave of the Patriarchs, days for Jews and days for Muslims,” she said. The great fear among many Orientalists is that Israel is already in the process of building a Third Temple. Many in Iran are paranoid that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is actually helping Israel build a Temple.
However the question of a Third Temple is answered, one thing is certain, there are Israelis clamoring for the construction of such a Temple. The Temple Institute is one of the largest organizations in Israel working to prepare as many of the Jewish people for the construction of a Third Temple as possible. Arnon Segal is a journalist who has taken particular interest in what the Temple Institute is doing regarding this preparation. “The direction is changing consciousness. The preparations are mental more than anything.” Another anonymous source talking to Al Monitor stated, “If not for the problem of the Dome of the Rock, they would build the temple today, and the temple would be built there. The third temple will be built by the government of Israel, not by private individuals. No one will do what shouldn’t be done, like an underground action to blow up the Dome of the Rock. The people who are committed to establishing the temple are normative and rational people, and just like we established the State of Israel, the day will come when we will build the temple, in an orderly, state-sanctioned manner.”
This, above all other issues surrounding the discussions between Israel and Palestinians, is the biggest sticking point. This issue, the establishment of a Third Temple, strikes at the heart of culture and society for both civilizations, Jewish and Muslim. Until this can be resolved, no amount of talking is going to go anywhere. There is no indication that US negotiators take this as seriously as the interlocutor for the two negotiating parties, after all the people at the State Department in charge of these talks do not seem to take religious aspects of culture seriously within the US so why should they think that others in foreign states do either. Despite this conceited view from the US officials, the Israelis and the Palestinians certainly do and it is going to take a mediator who recognizes this to broker a deal.