At the heart of recent episodes of Palestinian violence and terror is the conviction that any Jewish presence on or near the Temple Mount somehow constitutes a threat to the integrity of Muslim holy sites. Yehudah Mirsky traces this conviction to its origins and explains its effects:
Palestinian nationalists in the 1920s relied upon the symbolic significance of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount to shore up their own emerging ranks. Haj Amin al-Husseini, a new, young Palestinian leader who was then the mufti of Jerusalem, sought to Islamicize the political struggle with Zionism, not least because early Palestinian nationalism lacked secular rallying cries. He instilled the idea that anything Jews do on or near the Temple Mount, even something as seemingly innocuous as putting benches in the alley that then encased the Western Wall, was part of a plot to destroy its sacred mosques. . . .
[In recent decades], the Palestinian nationalist movement, like the mufti nearly a century ago, has increasingly stoked fears about Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as a rallying cry. . . . In doing so, the Palestinian leadership has adopted the spurious claim that no Jewish temple ever existed on the site as a central theme in Palestinian politics. Yasir Arafat even cited this to President Clinton to explain his unwillingness to accept Israeli positions during negotiations at Camp David. This distortion has compelled Israel, which for years was content to leave the Mount in the hands of Muslim clergy and defer discussions of sovereignty, to assert its own claims to the Temple Mount. Further inflaming the situation, the Muslim clerics supervising the site have failed to maintain its archaeological history, which arouses Israelis’ fears that they are trying to erase Jewish history—a clear signal that Palestinians will never accept the Jewish state. . . .
The international community has exacerbated these tensions by adopting the Palestinian line on Jerusalem. On July 4, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution denying Jewish claims to Jerusalem and alleging all manner of Israeli misdeeds. . . . The decline of secular nationalism throughout the Middle East compounds this vicious cycle. . . .
Any hope for a sustainable future requires Palestinians to accept the historic tie and sacred nature of the Temple Mount for Jews.