Why Did Sharon Go to the Temple Mount?
May 5, 2001
Discussion Thread - Comment #s - 392 & 398
References:  AVISHAI MARGALIT, "The Middle East: Snakes & Ladders," New York Review of Books, May 17, 2001.
 Phil Reeves, "Halt all settlements, Israel is told," Independent, 05 May 2001
 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.
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"The Middle East: Snakes & Ladders"
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
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
Excerpt: Recommendations from the Mitchell Committee Report