The State of Israel was established on the ruins of Palestine, based on a series of objectives that were initialed by letters from the Hebrew alphabet, the consequences of which continue to guide Israeli strategies to this day. The current violence against Palestinian worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem is a logical extension of the same Zionist ambition.
Plan A (February, 1945), Plan B (May, 1947) and Plan C (November, 1947) all strove to achieve the same end: the ethnic cleansing of Palestine of its original inhabitants. It was not until March 1948 that Plan Dalet (Hebrew for Plan D) brought together all of the preparatory stages for final implementation.
Championed by the Haganah Jewish militias, ‘Plan Dalet’ saw the destruction of hundreds of villages, the depopulation of entire cities and the defense of the new country’s borders, ensuring Palestinian refugees are never allowed back. For Palestinians, that phase of their history is known as the “Nakba”, or the “Catastrophe”.
‘Dalet’ was an astounding success from the Zionists’ viewpoint. However, the borders were never truly defined – in order to allow for territorial expansion, at the opportune time. That moment came when Israel launched its war of 1967 (known to Palestinians as ‘Naksa’ or the ‘Setback’), seizing East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, thus sealing the fate of entire historic Palestine.
Occupied Jerusalem was not open for negotiations: it is Israel’s historic, eternal and undivided capital, they claimed, citing or misinterpreting biblical references as they saw fit. Almost immediately, the Israeli Government annexed Jerusalem by extending the West Jerusalem municipal borders to include newly conquered East Jerusalem.
It was not until 1980 when Israel passed a law that explicitly annexed the illegally occupied city to become part of the so-called Israel proper. Since then, Jerusalem has been a major point of strife, political conflict and controversy. Understandably, the Jerusalem political discourse is conflated with discussion about religion, but it is far more encompassing than a conflict over access to holy sites.
The fate of Jerusalem and its holy sites cannot be understood separately from the fate of Palestine. And the daily struggle of Palestinian Muslims and Christians in that City is a representation of the struggle of Palestinians everywhere.
As West Jerusalem was conquered under ‘Plan Dalet’, East Jerusalem, like the rest of the Occupied Territories was, along with other Palestinian regions, the target of another plan: The ‘Allon Plan’.
It was named after Yigal Allon, a former general and minister in the Israeli Government, who took on the task of drawing an Israeli vision for the newly conquered Palestinian Territories. While the Israeli Government moved to immediately change the status quo governing East Jerusalem, the ‘Allon Plan’ sought to annex more than 30 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza for ‘security purposes’.
It stipulated the establishment of a “security corridor” along the River Jordan, as well outside the “Green Line”, a one-sided Israeli demarcation of its borders with the West Bank. The plan envisioned the incorporation of all of the Gaza Strip into Israel, and was meant to return parts of the West Bank to Jordan as a first step toward implementing the “Jordanian option” for Palestinian refugees, i.e., ethnic cleansing, coupled with the creation of an ‘alternative homeland’ for Palestinians.
While the plan did not fully actualize, the seizure, ethnic cleansing and annexation of occupied land was a resounding success. Moreover, the ‘Allon Plan’ provided an unmistakable signal that the Labor Government, which ruled Israel at the time, had every intention of retaining large parts of the West Bank and all of Gaza, with no intention of honoring United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which challenged Israel’s military takeover of Palestinian territories.
To ensure seizure of new land would be irreversible, the Labor Government needed to move some of its citizens (in violation of the Geneva Conventions) to the newly-occupied territories. Doing so required reaching out to the most reactionary, religious elements of Israeli society, the religious- ultra-nationalists camps, who were on the margins of mainstream politics.
To capitalize on the Government’s alluring settlement policies in the West Bank, a group of religious Jews rented a hotel in the Palestinian town of al-Khalil (Hebron) to spend Passover at the ‘Cave of the Patriarchs’, and simply refused to leave, sparking the biblical passion of religious Orthodox Israelis across the country, who referred to the West Bank by the Biblical name, Judea and Samaria.
The move ignited the ire of Palestinians, who watched in complete dismay as their land was conquered, renamed and, later, settled by outsiders. In 1970, to ‘diffuse’ the situation, the Israeli Government constructed the ‘Kiryat Arba’ Settlement on the outskirts of the Arab city, which invited even more orthodox Jews to al-Khalil.
The ‘Allon Plan’ may have been intended for strategic purposes; but out of necessity, what began as political objectives intermingled with what became religious and spiritual.
Over the years, the strategic settlement growth was complemented by the religiously motivated expansion, championed by a vibrant movement, exemplified in the founding of “Gush Emunim” (Bloc of the Faithful) in 1974. Its mission was to settle legions of fundamentalists on the West Bank.
Little has changed since, save the fact that the current Israeli Government is a government of settlers, who are not engaged in a symbiotic relationship with the Government but who dominate a political establishment that is teeming with zealots and fanatics, relentless on changing the status quo in Jerusalem, starting with Haram al-Sharif, or the ‘Noble Sanctuary’.
Haram al-Sharif is one of the holiest Islamic sites, but this is not just about religion. Israeli politicians have been ‘debating’ the status of Haram al-Sharif for many months, as right-wing, religious and ultra-nationalists elements are advocating the complete appropriation of the al-Aqsa Mosque (situated in Haram al-Sharif), currently under the management of the Islamic Trust (known as ‘Waqf’.)
Israel’s new Minister of Internal Security, Gilad Erdan, is repressing any Palestinian in Jerusalem who dares challenge new Israeli rules regarding Muslim access to al-Aqsa. Scores of Palestinians have been shot, beaten and many more arrested in recent days as they have attempted to confront Israeli police who escort Jewish extremists on their provocative ‘tours’ of the Muslim holy site.
The current conflict suggests a repeat of what took place on February 25, 1994, when a US-born Jewish fanatic, Baruch Goldstein, stormed into the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Palestinian city of al-Khalil and opened fire. Over 50 Palestinians were killed while kneeling for prayer on that day. In the name of ‘keeping the peace’, the Israeli army took over the Mosque and began regulating Muslim access to it, allowing Jewish worshippers to the Palestinian holy site.
Goldstein and his most ardent supporters hailed from the notorious “Kiryat Arba” illegal Jewish settlement.
Israeli politicians now want to see the al-Aqsa Mosque status changed as well. The Government wants to ensure its complete dominance over Palestinians, while the extremists wanted to demolish the Mosque, seeking ancient Jewish temples presumably destroyed in 586 BC and AD 70.
But to change the status of Haram al-Sharif, which has been an exclusive Muslim site for the last 1,300 years, much blood would have to be spilled. That, too, is being managed by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has successfully pursued the country’s Attorney General to permit the use of sniper fire against protesting Palestinian youth.
With such right-wing and extremist politicians at his side, Netanyahu’s designs in Jerusalem are consistent with the political mood in Israel today, and also consistent with plans enacted by his predecessors many years ago.
The fact that plans to conquer even the remaining symbols of Palestinian nationhood and spirituality have finally reached al-Aqsa is particularly alarming. Considering the turmoil throughout the Middle East region and the ineffectual Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu is likely to push forward with his plan, no matter the price or the consequences.