Israel's High-Stake Game in Al-Aqsa and Why Netanyahu May Prevail
22 October 2015
By Ramzy Baroud
The State of Israel was established on the ruins of Palestine, based on a
series of objectives that were named after letters from the Hebrew alphabet,
the consequences of which continue to guide Israeli strategies to this day.
The current violence against Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in
Occupied East Jerusalem is a logical extension of the same Zionist ambition.
Plan A (February, 1945), Plan B (May, 1947) and Plan C (November, 1947) all
strove to achieve the same end: the ethnic cleansing of Palestine of its
original inhabitants. It was not until March 1948 that Plan Dalet (Hebrew for
Plan D) brought together all of the preparatory stages for final
Championed by the Haganah Jewish militias, Plan Dalet led to the destruction
of hundreds of villages, the depopulation of entire cities and the defence of
the new country's nominal borders; it also ensured that Palestinian refugees
are never allowed back. For Palestinians, that phase of their history is
known as the ''Nakba'', or the ''Catastrophe''.
Dalet was an astounding success from the Zionists' viewpoint. However, the
borders of the state have never been defined, in order to allow for
territorial expansion at an opportune moment. That moment arrived when Israel
launched its war of 1967 (known to Palestinians as the ''Naksa'' or
''Setback''), seizing East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, thus
sealing the fate of the whole of historic Palestine.
Occupied Jerusalem was immediately declared to be off-limits to negotiations
as Israel's ''historic, eternal and undivided capital''; the Zionist
justified this claim by citing or misinterpreting Biblical references as they
saw fit. Almost immediately, the Israeli government annexed Jerusalem by
extending the West Jerusalem municipal borders to include the newly-conquered
Eastern half of the city.
It was not until 1980, though, that Israel passed a law which explicitly
annexed the illegally-occupied city to become part of so-called Israel
proper. Since then, Jerusalem has been a major point of strife, political
conflict and controversy. Understandably, the Jerusalem political discourse
is conflated with discussion about religion, but it is far more complex than
a conflict over access to holy sites.
The fate of Jerusalem and its holy sites cannot be understood separately from
the fate of Palestine itself. And the daily struggle of Palestinian Muslims
and Christians in the city is a representation of the struggle of
As West Jerusalem was conquered under Plan Dalet, East Jerusalem, like the
rest of the Occupied Territories was, along with other Palestinian regions,
the target of the Allon Plan. This was named after Yigal Allon, a former
general and minister in the Israeli government, who took on the task of
drawing an Israeli vision for the newly-conquered Palestinian Territories.
While the government moved immediately to change the status quo governing
East Jerusalem, the Allon Plan sought to annex more than 30 per cent of the
West Bank and all of Gaza for ''security purposes''.
It stipulated the establishment of a ''security corridor'' along the River
Jordan, as well outside the ''Green [1949 Armistice] Line'', a one-sided
Israeli demarcation of its borders with the West Bank. The plan envisioned
the incorporation of all of the Gaza Strip into Israel, and was meant to
return parts of the West Bank to Jordan as a first step toward implementing
the ''Jordanian option'' for Palestinian refugees — in other words, ethnic
cleansing — coupled with the creation of an ''alternative homeland'' on the
East Bank of the Jordan for those expelled from their homes.
While the plan was not fully realised, the seizure, ethnic cleansing and
annexation of occupied land was a resounding success. Moreover, the Allon
Plan provided an unmistakable signal that the Labour government which ruled
Israel at the time had every intention of retaining large parts of the West
Bank and all of Gaza, with no intention whatsoever of honouring the terms of
UN Security Council Resolution 242, which challenged Israel's military
takeover of Palestinian territories.
To ensure that the seizure of new land would be irreversible, the Israeli
government needed to move some of its citizens (in violation of the Geneva
Conventions) to the newly-occupied territories. Doing so required reaching
out to the most reactionary, religious elements of Israeli society, the
religious ultra-nationalists, who were on the margins of mainstream politics.
To capitalise on the government's alluring settlement policies in the West
Bank, a group of religious Jews rented a hotel in the Palestinian town of Al-Khalil
(Hebron) to spend Passover at the ''Cave of the Patriarchs'' [the Ibrahimi
Mosque], and simply refused to leave. Thus they sparked the passion of
religiously Orthodox Israelis across the country, who referred to the West
Bank by the Biblical name of Judea and Samaria.
The move ignited the ire of Palestinians, who watched in complete dismay as
their land was conquered, renamed and, later, settled by outsiders. In 1970,
to ''diffuse'' the situation, the Israeli government constructed the Kiryat
Arba settlement on the outskirts of the Arab city, which invited even more
orthodox Jews to move to Al-Khalil.
The Allon Plan may have been intended for strategic purposes, but out of
necessity, what began as political objectives intermingled with what became
religious and spiritual.
Over the years, the strategic settlement growth was complemented by the
religiously-motivated expansion, championed by a vibrant movement,
exemplified in the founding of Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) in 1974.
Its mission was to settle legions of fundamentalists on the West Bank.
Little has changed since then, save the fact that the current Israeli
administration is a government of settlers, who are not engaged in a
symbiotic relationship with governance but who dominate a political
establishment that is teeming with zealots and fanatics, relentless on
changing the status quo in Jerusalem. They are starting with Haram Al-Sharif,
the ''Noble Sanctuary'', containing Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock
Although this is one of the holiest Islamic sites in the world, this is not
just about religion. Israeli politicians have been ''debating'' the status of
Haram Al-Sharif for many months, as right-wing, religious and
ultra-nationalist elements are advocating the complete appropriation of Al-Aqsa
Mosque currently under the management of the Ministry of Islamic Waqf
Israel's new Minister of Internal Security, Gilad Erdan, is repressing any
Palestinian in Jerusalem who dares to challenge new Israeli rules regarding
Muslim access to Al-Aqsa. Scores of Palestinians have been shot and beaten,
with many more arrested in recent days as they have attempted to confront
Israeli police who escort Jewish extremists on their provocative ''tours'' of
the Muslim holy site.
The current conflict suggests a potential repeat of what took place on 25
February, 1994, when a US-born Jewish fanatic, Baruch Goldstein, stormed into
the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil and opened fire with his Israeli army-issue
assault rifle. Over 50 Palestinians were killed while kneeling for morning
prayer. In the name of ''keeping the peace'', the army took over the mosque
and began regulating Muslim access to it, allowing Jewish worshippers to use
the Palestinian holy site. Such arrangements have been formalised and today
most of the mosque is used as a synagogue, with Muslims excluded. Goldstein
and his most ardent supporters hailed from the notorious Kiryat Arba illegal
Israeli politicians now want to see the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque changed as
well. The government wants to ensure its complete dominance over
Palestinians, while the extremists want to demolish the mosque, and build a
temple on the site to replace ancient Jewish temples presumably destroyed in
586 BC and AD 70.
However, to change the status of Haram Al-Sharif, which has been an exclusive
Muslim site for the past 1,300 years, much blood would have to be spilled.
That, too, is being managed by Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,
who has successfully persuaded the country's attorney general to permit the
use of sniper fire against protesting Palestinian youth.
With such right-wing and extremist politicians at his side, Netanyahu's
designs in Jerusalem are consistent with the political mood in Israel today,
and also consistent with plans enacted by his predecessors many years ago.
The fact that plans to conquer even the remaining symbols of Palestinian
nationhood and spirituality have finally reached Al-Aqsa is particularly
alarming. Considering the turmoil throughout the Middle East region and the
ineffectual Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu is likely to
push forward with his plan, no matter what the price or the consequences.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has a PhD in Palestine Studies from the University of
Exeter. He has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an
internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of
several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include
'Searching Jenin', 'The Second Palestinian Intifada' and his latest 'My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story'. Visit his website: