The Knesset debate Tuesday over Israel's sovereignty – or lack of – on the Temple Mount touched upon a subject that has always been taboo in Israeli politics: the Biblical Messianic promise of a future Greater Israel with a rebuilt Temple at its center. According to IDF Radio, while the debate was not particularly virulent by Knesset standards, the discussion “has long term ramifications” and can be expected to continue.
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud-Beytenu), who initiated the debate, began his speech by mentioning the 5-meter-tall brass menorah that stands in the Rose Garden outside the Knesset, as well as the smaller menorah that adorns the Knesset speaker's podium, and noting that it is largely thanks to the relief on Rome's Arch of Titus – which celebrates Rome's destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 CE – that we know just how the Menorah looked.
MK Feiglin explained that in 1967, when Israel liberated Jerusalem's Old City, “through great miracles,” the Jews “received a gift” from their Heavenly Father, in the form of the Temple Mount – but then gave it away to the Muslim Waqf, choosing instead to keep only the gift's “wrapping” – the Western Wall, or Kotel.
IDF Radio noted that while the usually rowdy Arab MKs boycotted the debate completely, centrist Likud MKs were surprisingly present and supportive. Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin, who was angry with Feiglin for insisting on touring the Temple Mount early in this Knesset's term, has apparently had a change of heart. “There is no living body that can function without a heart,” said the secular Levin at the debate. “We need to remember this – because a right that many generations of our fellow Jews did not have, has fallen into our hands.”
The messianic overtones of the debate were not lost on the ears of the Opposition. MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) sniped at Feiglin, and asked with sarcasm: “Why stop at the Temple Mount? If you are the new messiah of our times, what about the Covenant of the Parts [brit beyn habetarim – the covenant between G-d and Abraham in which G-d promised the land of Israel, from Egypt to the Euphrates, to his descendants]? What about the tribes of Reuven and Gad, and half of the tribe of Menashe [the Israelite tribes whose land was located east of the Jordan]? Why leave them behind?”
The Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site, where the two holy Temples once stood before being destroyed by the Babylonian and Roman empires, respectively.
Despite its supreme importance to Jews worldwide, Jews are subject to draconian limitations on the Mount, including a ban on praying, due to the presence of an Islamic complex, administered by the Waqf Islamic Trust, and threats by Islamist groups. The Israeli police are able to bypass court decisions upholding the Jewish right to prayer there by citing unspecifiied "security concerns", either to ban individual activists or even to issueblanket prohibitions on Jews ascending at all.
The Knesset debate caused tension Tuesday on the Temple Mount, where Arabs threw rocks and firecrackers at police when they opened the Rambam Gate, the only entrance through which Jews are permitted to enter, injuring two policemen. Police then reportedly responded by closing down the site... to Jews. Matters on the Mount appeared to have calmed down, however, by Wednesday morning, going back to their normal abnormal state.