Successive Israeli governments have since 1967 presumed that it is not in Israel’s interest to restore Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. The issue has consistently been regarded as one of religion, nostalgia, sentimentalism and even messianism. The view consistently taken has been that the Israeli national interest requires maintaining the status quo. However, the problem is that every Arab government believes that this is mere posturing giving cover to a hidden agenda amounting to a Jewish conspiracy to build a Third Temple. Almost every person in the Arab world believes in this canard. The more Israeli governments insist on protecting the status quo, the more Israel is suspected by the Arabs. The reason is simple. Israel’s behavior appears incomprehensible, if the Arabs were in the Jews’ place they would surely not hesitate to build a Third Temple. This is why Israel’s behavior appears profoundly suspicious.
What I am suggesting is not building a Third Temple but certainly performing comprehensive archaeological excavations on the mount and subsequently building synagogues there. No Muslim state is interested in religious war with Israel and the Palestinians although always keen to foment religious war have consistently failed to provoke one. Would archaeological excavations on the Temple Mount lead to a Third Intifada? Not unless the Palestinian Authority wants one and they certainly don’t as they are set to gain precisely nothing.
Rather, Israel should excavate the Mount, build several synagogues there and legislate the new situation on the Temple Mount in a Basic Law. This would constitutionally protect both Muslim and Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. The Basic law would furthermore state that the Third Temple would not be built until the arrival of the Mashiach (messiah). There should be one Sephardi-Mizrahi Orthodox synagogue, one Ashkenazi Orthodox synagogue, one Yemeni Orthodox synagogue and one egalitarian non-denominational synagogue. All this should be anchored in the Basic law. Furthermore should the inviolable status of al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock until the arrival of the Mashiach be anchored in the Basic law.
While this is bound to lead to intense diplomatic condemnations, this will also clear up the atmosphere between Israel and the Arab world since this will clarify Israel’s intentions. Contrary to what Israeli policy makers tend to assume, will Arab governments in the end not be unhappy since Muslim rights will be constitutionally protected and there will be no Third Temple with animal sacrifice since no supernatural messiah will ever arrive.