Restrictions imposed by Israel on Muslims' access to Al-Aqsa Mosque have been harshly criticized by a number of governments in recent weeks. No one can see these measures as innocent steps to impose order and security. They are similar to past Israeli acts that eventually led to Tel Aviv declaring sovereignty over land that it does not own and the current response to the most recent Israeli encroachment on land belonging to the entire Muslim world is entirely justified.
Tel Aviv's controversial steps also led to a war of words between Turkey and Israel. On Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the Israeli government of trying to take Al-Aqsa from Muslims under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Hours later, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry responded by saying that "the days of the Ottoman Empire" are over and warned that "those who live in glass palaces should be wary of casting stones," which his Turkish counterpart yesterday called "presumptuous."
First of all, it is noteworthy that Israel's controversial steps took place against the backdrop of the Qatar crisis. As Muslim countries are busy fighting each other, Israel has seized this opportunity to impose unjustified restrictions on the religious freedom of Palestinians. In other words, the governments that fueled the Qatar crisis, especially Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have been serving the interests of Tel Aviv. In this sense, it is not at all surprising that senior Israeli officials have been pushing the narrative that the main conflict in the Middle East was no longer between Arabs and Israelis but rival Muslim groups.
In light of the most recent developments, it would appear that there is an ongoing battle in the Israeli capital between officials advocating closer cooperation with Turkey and others, who have been pushing for a more hostile approach. In this sense, it seems that the latter group has been trying to escalate tensions with Turkey in an effort to reverse last summer's rapprochement.
In the face of the blatant aggression of certain Israeli officials against Muslims, reasonable people must have the courage to speak up against this injustice. Although the world's eyes are set on deeper wounds in the region, peace in the Middle East remains crucial to regional stability. To be clear, the fait accompli that Israel wants to create in the neighborhood will further delay meaningful efforts to promote peace and security. Under the circumstances, reasonable voices in Israel, Palestine and the rest of the Middle East must take certain steps. In particular, the Israeli public has a responsibility to speak up against efforts by their government to escalate the crisis. Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini's statement on the situation in Haram al-Sharif and call for the restoration of the status quo in the area are most welcome. To be clear, over the past weeks, the Turkish government has been taking initiatives to keep the crisis under control. The Turks acted in a constructive and responsible manner with no intention to use this opportunity to gain more power or influence over the region. It is important for other regional players to support Turkey's efforts and join Ankara to raise awareness about the need for peace.
Jerusalem represents the shared values of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Throughout history, practices by various governments that have gone against the values and spirit of Jerusalem have sparked violent clashes. People could only inhabit the holy lands if and when reason triumphed over greed. The current conflict will not end until Jerusalem goes back to being the temple of this conscience and spirit.
Without further delay, Israel must stop spilling blood in Haram al-Sharif and start respecting international law. At a time when the entire region suffers from chaos, Tel Aviv has been eager to pick new fights. But it's important to recognize that the deepening of regional chaos will hurt the interests of Israel above everyone else's. The smart thing for the Israelis to do would be to make more friends and repair their relations with their enemies.
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