For centuries, Jerusalem was the center of the Hebrew people and nation. It was the home of the Jewish Temple built by King Solomon around 957 BC [I’m still old fashioned and use the dating based on the biblical time frame, not the current secular one]. The First Temple was considered to be footstool of God’s presence, and was built on the Temple Mount.
The First Temple was totally destroyed around 586 BC by the Babylonians. The Second Temple was built on the same site as the First Temple with construction starting around 538BC and completed in 515 BC. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70AD by the Romans.
In the seventh century AD, the Muslim Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan captured Jerusalem and ordered that the construction of Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine. Along with Dome of the Rock, the Muslims erected the al-Aqsa Mospue on the Temple Mount in what used to be the Temple courtyard.
The Muslims maintained occupation of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount until 1967 when Israel captured the city from Jordan in the Six Day War. The Jewish people were elated because it was the first time in centuries that they were once again allowed to worship at the Temple Mount and the site of the First and Second Temples.
In 1980, Israel established the Jerusalem Law which consolidated East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, with the rest of Jerusalem. However, the United Nations Security Council ruled that the Jerusalem Law was a violation of international law. This allowed for the establishment of the Muslim Waqf which was given administrative control over the Temple Mount site and Jews were once again banned from worshipping there.
The Jewish people still consider the Temple Mount to be their most holy site and the Muslims claim it is a very important holy site to them also. Unfortunately, the Muslims control the Temple Mount and Jews are not allowed to worship and this is a major source of conflict between the two religions. Both sides still claim sovereignty over the site and Israel continues to fight against the UN ruling, considering the UN has always been anti-Jewish.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 20th. That visit may be cancelled or delayed if the Israel government cannot form a new government by the 16th. The new government is the result of the recent elections and there are some internal issues between the leadership and the ruling parties.
Counting on him making his trip, Hamas has issued a slew of warnings and restrictions to Obama concerning any planned visits to the Temple Mount. With the dominance of the United States, that any visit by an American president carried out under the sponsorship of Israel (‘the Zionist occupation’) would be more dangerous than if any country actually relocated their embassies to Jerusalem.
Ekrima Sabri, head of the High Islamic Council in Jerusalem has told the press that Obama would be allowed to visit the Temple Mount if he agreed to three conditions:
1. He may enter the Temple Mount through any of the 11 gates except the Mughrabi Gate. The Israeli army obtained the keys during the Six Day War and if Obama were to enter that gate, then it would be understood as the US recognizing the Israeli claim of sovereignty over the Temple Mount.
2. No Israeli officials are to accompany Obama on his visit to the Temple Mount.
3. Obama’s visit to the Temple Mount be made as a tourist sight-seeing visit and not a political visit.
If Obama is not willing to agree to their terms, he will not be allowed to visit the historic site. The White House has not indicated whether the president has plans to visit the Temple Mount or not. If he does, what will he do? Will he cave in to the demands of a terrorist organization (which would be siding with his fellow Muslims) and risk insulting the Israeli government and people or will he demonstrate to Israel that US relations with them are more important than those with terrorists like Hamas?
I would not be surprised to see Obama agree to the Hamas demands and visit the Temple Mount and even do so in the presence of Hamas leaders. If he does, I would not blame Israel for any reaction they may take at such an affront. Obama’s actions could just be enough to spark another international war in a very unstable part of the world.