And now, peace on the Temple Mount, too
It's no coincidence that the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is called the Abraham Accord, after the common father of Judaism and Islam. Both faiths believe that Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his son – the differences have to do with the identity of that son. Jews believe that the binding of Isaac took place on the Temple Mount, where Creation occurred and later became the location of the Jewish people's two biggest temples.
The Prophet Isaiah predicted that in the future "My house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples" [Isaiah 56:7] and perhaps the current time and the agreement between the countries will finally make that prophecy a reality by allow Jews and Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount in harmony, without trampling each other's rights and freedoms.
Unfortunately, since 1967 Israel has not allowed Jews the freedom to worship at their people's holiest site. It did retain national sovereignty on and around the Temple Mount, but religious sovereignty was handed over to the Muslim Waqf, which asked that Jews be forbidden to murmur prayers, hold Hebrew books, or make any reference to the Temple while on the Mount. The status quo has remained in place because Israeli leaders were afraid that deviating from it would cause Muslims to riot in Israel and around the world. Israeli authorities have said more than once that this is a security issue, as a change to the existing order on the Temple Mount could spark violence.
That fear should not guide Israel, but these are the facts. However, we are living in a time unlike any other we have ever seen: the deal with the UAE and Bahrain, the Saudis permitting Israel to use their airspace, and the first Muslim-majority country (Kosovo) to open an embassy in Jerusalem. The Islamist wall of refusal to accept the Jewish state or Jews' sovereignty over their ancestral land is cracking.
And if the conflicts of the past are coming to an end, the arrival of an Emirati delegation might be the time to smash twisted conventions. Prime Minister Netanyahu can invite his senior counterpart to join him on a visit to the Temple Mount, and they can both pray for the peace to succeed and for the region to flourish and stay stable, each according to his own faith.
They could make another gesture to ensure that historic commitment and invite Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to join them there for what would be a historic event that will herald a period of peace and equality. It would be another hand extended to Abbas to see if he is really ready for true peace.
Dr. Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi, chairman of the UAE Federal National Council's Defense, Interior, and Foreign Affairs Committee, said recently that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed wants to make a personal visit to Jerusalem to seek "a total peace." A total peace that would include all aspects of agreement and reconciliation. The United Arab Emirates has openly declared that Jews have deep roots in the region and belong here. That is a highly significant admission, one that would be bolstered by joint prayer on the Temple Mount.
One of the most unusual and perverse aspects of the Middle East conflict is the rejection of the Jewish right to pray on the Temple Mount. That must change if the agreement between the children of Abraham will have any meaning and bring peace and normalization.