Since the beginning of the week, Palestinian officials have been seeking to stir up violence and controversy, hurling invective at Israel over the decision to install metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount.
The Fatah Central Committee called for “a day of rage,” Arab residents of the Old City have denounced the measure as an “act of war” and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah labeled the move “gross aggression” and “dangerous.”
Don’t let the overblown rhetoric fool you. The real menace to peace is not tighter security at the holy site, but rather looser lips among the Palestinian leadership.
Indeed, alongside those electronic instruments designed to screen for weapons, it appears that malarkey detectors need to be installed to screen for the balderdash being spread by Israel’s foes.
To begin with, it is worth recalling that the move comes in the wake of last Friday’s lethal terrorist attack, in which Palestinian gunmen using weapons that had been stored on the Temple Mount murdered two Israeli policemen.
In other words, the very place that Palestinian spokesmen insist is so sacred to their faith is being used to hide firearms and who knows what else.
Clearly, the free hand that has been given to the Muslim Wakf to control affairs on the Mount has been exploited to turn the site into a storage facility and staging ground for violence against Israel.
Such incidents pose a threat not only to the safety of the security forces tasked with protecting the area, but also to all who visit it.
Hence, for Palestinian leaders to oppose the move is absurd, as the detectors will protect all who enter, without discrimination. This is collective protection, not collective punishment.
It was for this very same reason that in 2011, Saudi officials announced that they would be installing explosives detectors at the entrance to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the holiest site in the world for Muslims.
Lt.-Col. Fawaz Sahafi, who was in charge of the mosque’s security at the time, told a Saudi newspaper that “sophisticated metal and explosive detectors” were being placed at the gates of the mosque, which is visited by millions each year.
If metal detectors can be used to protect mosques in Mecca, why should Palestinians object to them in Jerusalem? Moreover, as anyone who has ever been to an airport or public entertainment venue can attest, metal detectors are an ubiquitous part of life.
You can’t board an airplane, attend a New York Mets game at Citi Field or a Real Madrid soccer match at Bernabeu stadium, or take your kids to Disneyland without passing through one, for reasons that are as obvious as they are justified.
For well over a decade, there have been metal detectors at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, which both Jewish and Muslim worshipers must pass through, as well as at other popular religious and tourist sites throughout the country.
And yet, the Palestinians would have us believe that at a sensitive location such as the Temple Mount, which has been a flashpoint for years and the scene of periodic Palestinian rioting and stone-throwing, the addition of metal detectors is somehow a contentious act? Ironically, it is the overheated bluster of Palestinian officials that directly contributes to the need for added security measures. By feigning anger and trying to incite acts of violence and terrorism through their incendiary bombast, the Palestinian leadership is leaving Israel with no choice but to take steps to ensure that calm prevails at the Temple Mount.
In light of their behavior, it is time for Israel to reconsider its policy of granting wide autonomy to the Muslim Wakf and Palestinian officials in running affairs on the Temple Mount. Simply put, this placating approach has failed to keep the site safe and has played into the hands of Islamic extremists.
By curtailing the rights of Jewish visitors and worshipers at the Temple Mount, and empowering the Palestinians to think of themselves as the ones in charge, Israel has projected weakness and vacillation in the face of obstructionism and mischief.
Rather than yielding every time Palestinian leaders raise their voices and shout, Israel would do well to stand firm and reassert control over the site.
After all, the Wakf has repeatedly demonstrated in word and deed that it cannot be trusted with the supervision of the Temple Mount.
Installing metal detectors may restore some quiet in the short term, but as long as the Jewish state neglects its responsibility towards the Jewish People’s holiest site and allows hostile elements to control it, the greater the chance that a major conflagration will almost certainly erupt.