While the wise and up-to-date observers declare the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine to be deader than dead, I continue to think that morally it is the best solution for this deeply difficult problem. However, one leading force in sending this solution into the grave is Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, who is up for reelection very shortly. He has for some time been pushing the situation towards a hard nationalist one state solution, with the current Trump admin supporting his worst impulses. But in the last few days as the election approaches, Netanyahu has made seriously disturbing moves that promise longer tern injustice and instability.
The first of those is his decision to ally with Otzma Jehudit, a political party descended from the terrorist Kahane group. Really, the Kahanists have been officially labeled a terrorist group by the US government and in the past have killed lots of people, including in the US. They are so bad that even AIPAC has criticized Netanyahu for allying with him in this tight election campaign, although I have no doubt that if he wins, they will be back supporting him big and full time.
The other development that I read on Juan Cole’s blog is potentially far more serious and dangerous. Within the last few days, supposedly spontaneous Israeli West Bank settler activists have halted Muslims from accessing the al-Aqsa mosque. This has involved both attacking people trying to get near it as well as illegally chaining the gate to the area around it. This has received in the US near zero coverage, but this could lead to World War III (or are we on IV?).
Mallik Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdul-Rahman al-Sa’ud, the King of Saudi Arabia, whose most prestigious title is that he is the Protector of the Holy Sites (Mecca and Medina) could claim to be the Caliph of Islam if he controlled (as did the Ottoman Sultans) all three of the most holy sites of Islam. His father, the founder of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz (aka “Ibn Saud”), did not claim the Caliphate precisely because while had two of them under his control after he pushed the Hashemites out in 1924, he did not control the third, the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem (al-Quds in Arabic), then controlled by the British, That Netanyahu would allow keeping Muslims from visiting this third most holy site in all Islam threatens world religious war.
I (not alone) have long argued that the most hotly contest piece of land on this planet is a small square known in English in the US as the “Temple Mount,” following Jewish and Christian views of it, while it is known in Arabic as the Haram-es-Sharif, the Holy Place. The earliest Biblical reference to this site on its high spot is to when reportedly Abraham visited Jerusalem and had friendly dealings with then High Priest Melchizedek. His temple was reportedly on a more sensitive spot in that enclosure than the al-Aqsa mosque, the later central site of the Hebrew/Jewish temple, which the Romans destroyed in 70 CE after the locals up rose against their rule.
The building now on this long-revered spot is the Dome of the Rock, not quite as holy in Islam as the al-Aqsa mosque a few feet away from it, but the most beautiful building in Jerusalem. Not only does the gorgeous Dome of the Rock (al Aqsa and the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre not on this mount but not too far away, are both just ugly by comparison) it on the center of Melchizidek’s temple and the old Hebrew/Jewish temple, but in Islam it is where supposedly the Prophet Muhammed ascended into heaven for a major confab, as well as containing rock formations where the souls of those who die pass before going on to final judgment. Its interior art is fabulously beautiful. I saw it in 1997 when I first visited this contested site, then under the official jurisdiction of the late King Hussein of Jordan, although in 2017 when I took my wife, Marina, there non-Muslims were no longer allowed inside the Dome of the Rock, although we were able to wander around its exterior, taking photos.
But now Netanyahu is allowing settler activists to prevent Muslims from even entering the general site (directly above the Western “Wailing” Wall of the Jews on the lower west side of the former temple) to even get near either the officially more holy al-Aqsa mosque or its more beautiful neighbor, the Dome of the Rock. This act is completely unacceptable and threatens serious violence and war.