Why Did Sharon Go to the Temple Mount? 

May 5, 2001

Comment: #411

Discussion Thread - Comment #s - 392 & 398

References: [1] AVISHAI MARGALIT, "The Middle East: Snakes & Ladders," New York Review of Books, May 17, 2001.

[2] Phil Reeves, "Halt all settlements, Israel is told," Independent, 05 May 2001

[3] Phil Reeves, "End of building holds key to restoring peace," Independent, 05 May 2001 Excerpt: Recommendations of the Mitchell Committee.

Ariel Sharon's notorious visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on 28 September 2001 was the opening act of the Al Aqsa Intifada, but according to Phil Reeves [Ref 2], the draft report of the Mitchell commission concluded that it was not the cause of this Intifada. Among the strongest of recommendations contained in the Mitchell report is a call for Israel to halt the construction/expansion of settlements in the occupied territories [Ref 2 & 3].

Reeves says these settlements grew by 53% during the seven years of the so-called Oslo Peace Process ("War Process" may be a more apt phrase). That is correct. Click here for a graphic showing the buildup of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza between 1972 and 2000. Maps of these settlements and the division of land that has emerged out of the Oslo Process can be also found here on Defense and the National Interest:

Not mentioned in Reeve's reports is the companion issue of water (which will be the subject of a forthcoming blaster). The following links will introduce you to the sources of water of water in the region and contain some background analyses.

If the Mitchell Commission is correct in concluding that Sharon's visit did not trigger the Intifada, then what did and why did Sharon go to the Temple Mount?

The issues of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and water lie at the heart of this conflict—and they bring together the its most intractable dimension—the close coupling of domestic politics in Israel with the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In Reference 1 below, Avishai Margalit, a professor of philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, analyzes why Sharon went to the Temple Mount, and in so doing introduces us to the seamless intersection of domestic politics in Israel with the Israeli - Palestinian Conflict.

I urge you to read Margalit's insightful essay [i.e., Reference 1] carefully.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference #1
May 17, 2001

"The Middle East: Snakes & Ladders"
New York Review of Books  

Reference #2

Halt all settlements, Israel is told

Revealed: US-led commission on Middle East troubles urges end to building in occupied territories

By Phil Reeves in Jerusalem
05 May 2001

Reference #3

End of building holds key to restoring peace

Mitchell report calls on Sharon to lift blockade on Gaza Strip while attacking Arafat over his failure to control Palestinian gunmen

By Phil Reeves in Jerusalem
05 May 2001

Excerpt: Recommendations from the Mitchell Committee Report

  • Israel should freeze all settlement building, including "natural growth" of existing settlements

  • Israel should lift closure of Palestinian areas, transfer all back-taxes and let Palestinian workers return

  • Palestinians should arrest and jail guerrillas

  • Palestinians should renew security co-operation with Israel and ensure its workers are fully vetted

  • Israel should ensure that the army and Jewish settlers stop demolishing homes, roads and orchards

  • Israeli army should adopt policies encouraging non-lethal use of force to unarmed demonstrators

  • Palestinians should stop gunmen firing from civilian areas at civilians areas

  • Both sides should set up a "cooling-off period"

  • Both sides should discourage incitement

  • Joint agreement to protect holy places