Passover Politics in Israel
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
There is a truly bizarre political theme that emerges out of another holiday season in Israel. Events occurred or almost happened that make any observer ask why Israel and the Netanyahu Government permit occurrences which are totally unnecessary and politically strictly inflammatory.
Days before the holiday Netanyahu visited the Golan Heights and after a cabinet meeting proclaimed that Israel never intends to return the Golan to Syria. In the midst of the horrific five year long war continuing in Syria, why even bring up at this time the entire issue of the Golan; despite recent statements from the Arab League and even Germany. There are so many vital and dangerous events occurring throughout Syria, why chose this time to suddenly reiterate what Israel has asserted for decades. Now, was a totally unnecessary and gratuitous moment for Bibi to thrust the issue of Israeli presence on the Golan back into the conversation? There will plenty of time if and when the opportunity presents itself for an Israeli Government to articulate its rationale and explanation for its annexation of the Heights. Until such time what possible constructive purpose did Netanyahu propose to achieve with this pronouncement?
Similarly, last Friday a group of right wing Jewish religious activists from the Temple Faithful Movement provoked a confrontation when they tried to ascend the Temple Mount carrying four baby goats which they had intended to sacrifice on the site of the Temple on the eve of Passover. The group had been on the watch list of the police because they attempt to do this every year. Of the ten who were detained at least two had been banned from even entering Jerusalem before the holiday. Why the entire episode could not have been avoided in a time and a place when the security authorities were already on alert against potential terrorist incidents remains a mystery; except if one assumes that political authorities do not want to criticize their religious supporters.
Finally, after Israel and Jordan had agreed to a system on surveillance of activities on the Temple Mount, and the Israelis and Palestinians significantly upgraded their joint anti-terrorism operations, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority rejected the surveillance system just as it was about to be set up before the holidays. To replace the cameras, Jordan agreed instead now to double the number of religious inspectors working on the Temple Mount to 150 to be provided to the Waqf, the Islamic religious authority on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The positive indication as seen through this activity is that cooperation between Israel and Jordan and between Israel and the PA continues to be improving. On the other hand, their inability or unwillingness to stand up to Hamas and other more extreme groups is disconcerting, Clearly from Israel’s perspective, the absence of “Arab” visual monitoring equipment on the Temple Mount increases the potential that radical Muslims could collect stones and equipment on the Temple Mount which could be used once against Jews who might be gathering to pray at the Western Wall below the Mount.