Since its establishment, Israel has tried to show the world that it respects freedom of worship and allows it for all. The truth is that it has, in fact, succeeded to a large extent, in portraying this impression to its friends around the world. Despite what it demolished in the year of the Nakba, it preserved some mosques and churches in the displaced villages "out of respect for the sanctities". This positive image was only disturbed by some of them later being converted into art galleries, cafes or cowsheds.
After the 1967 Occupation, it raised the slogan of freedom of worship for the three religions, and then gave Jordan and others from the public who are concerned, the sense that the sanctities in Jerusalem are under Hashemite custodianship, with Jordan charged with the restoration of the holy sites, paying the wages of the employees there, and renewing the Dome of the Rock Mosque and the supplies needed such as furniture, carpets, lighting, etc. This means that the Occupation planted the illusion in the minds of many that the status of the holy sites in Jerusalem remained the same as it was before the 1967 Occupation.
However, the status quo for the Israeli governments is the continuation of what previous governments began, since the rule of the Labour Party, which means seizing land, harassing Jerusalemites, revoking their residency permits and occupying or demolishing hundreds of homes, but quietly and with "legal" justifications, and by fabricating disputes over property ownership, even if by forging documents. This is in addition to constant purchase attempts, not only in Jerusalem, but across the West Bank. All of this is happening, and we rarely hear any Arab or international condemnation, because it is happening with little publicity. It is only when a very provocative situation arises, such as a Minister entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque to record a video for their supporters, so they can prove "who the man of the house is" there, the Arab leaders and others around the world call for preserving the status quo, and that they do not recognise the changes that the Occupation is making unilaterally regarding the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque and other sanctities. This refusal and concern expressed by these leaders does not translate into real action.
On the contrary, the cooperation, coordination and agreements in all fields continue and intensify with the occupying power, the latest of which, for example, is the declaration of Moroccan-Israeli military cooperation. It is worth noting that the head of the Al-Quds Committee is King Mohammed VI and his predecessor was the late King Hassan. This means that the problem of the Arab leaders who denounce the Occupation is not with the Occupation as a principle that must be confronted, but, rather, with the way in which this Occupation is managed, and whether it is provocative or not.
The positions of the Arab leaderships are not taken seriously, as they are provoked by the demolition of homes and the confiscation of lands and homes, not even when children are killed, as they denounce on the one hand, and coordination continues and increases on the other. The Jordanian ambassador tried to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque to respond to the provocation of the fascist Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who stormed Al-Aqsa after being appointed Minister.
It also seems that Ambassador, Ghassan Al-Majali, wanted to say that this place is under Hashemite custodianship, but he was prevented from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque and confronted by a heavily armed policeman, who physically pushed the Ambassador away, as if he were dealing with a criminal. The fact that he was an Ambassador who has special relations with Israel for at least two and a half decades did not make any difference. The new government in Israel seeks to break the agreed upon rules, and it seems that it sees an opportunity to say to Jordan: "we are the masters of this place, not you or anyone else". It is possible for the new government, with its extremism, to bring the Palestinian cause back to the forefront, after it was pushed on the back burner internationally and in the Arab world. Extremist groups reached the level of indifference regarding reactions as a result the Arab normalisation, and even the announced and secret military and security cooperation.
Slogans of the failure to recognise the annexation of Jerusalem or Palestinian lands to Israel are empty of their content, and are a lip service for internal consumption in the Arab world. Arab leaders do not pay attention to the Occupation's crimes, unless events occur that could explode the situation to the extent that they fear losing control over them. The Palestinian people did not submit to the status quo in the past, and will not submit in the future, regardless of who rules in Israel. The important thing is that the leadership of Israel understands the Arab leaders well, contains their denunciations, and is familiar with the internal pressures in each country. So it is as if they are saying, "you have the right to be upset, but what should we do with these few troublemakers?"
Translated from Al Quds Al Arabi, 18 January 2023
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.