Extreme Temple Mount Makeover

On Thursday, MK Yisrael Hasson proposed that live cameras be set up around the controversial construction, and that every move made, every spade dug, would be recorded on camera in real time and broadcast live on the Internet.

He got the idea to video blog the excavations from reality TV - it could be the Big Brother of controversial construction projects. If Israel let the world see what they were doing 24/7, if the work were completely "transparent" and it was crystal clear that it wasn't going remotely near any Moslem holy site, he reasoned, it could quell the furor being stoked by Islamic radicals around the world.

His idea, which the Israel Antiquities Authority says it is considering, is a sign of Israeli desperation after explaining three points over and over again until they are blue in the face.

1. They are merely trying to renovate a damaged entrance ramp that collapsed in a snowstorm in 2004, they are not building anything new.

2. They are excavating at the construction site because excavation is required by law in a place where any digging can turn up antiquities

3. The site is completely in the Jewish quarter in the Old City, and not a spade will come near the al-Aqsa mosque.

Nice try, but even if every construction worker hired for the excavation were a certified imam, today's riots on the Mount, and the other protests around Israel and the world would have occurred.

The timing is just too darn convenient -- at a time when the Palestinians desperately need a distraction, both internal and external, from the Hamas-Fatah warring that has plagued them over the past months. What a great opportunity to refocus attention where it should be -- Israel and its evil doings.

Maybe it's just not worth it. That's what Yehuda Litani contended in the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot, yesterday, predicting that the construction would "almost certainly spark the third round of bloodshed caused by Israeli initiatives related to the Temple Mount area," citing bloodshed in 1996 with the opening of the Western Wall tunnel, and following the famous visit by Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in 2000. His point - with Hizbollah breathing down the northern border and the Iranian threats, we don't need this grief right now.

Is he right?

It certainly looks right now like Israel is in a lose-lose situation no matter what happens. If the construction moves forward, more violence is inevitable, as Litani says, and as Defense Minister Amir Peretz now argues.

If the construction stops, it will certainly leave the impression that Israel was indeed up to something underhanded and destructive, as well as giving the radical rabble-rousers the ability to brag that they've achieved a victory, supporting not only the justice of their cause, but their means - the violence today and the threats from various groups to commit terrorist acts if it doesn't stop -- caving in to the same intimidation tactics that characterized the protests against Danish cartoons and papal lectures.

Everyone knows that renovations are a big headache, but this is ridiculous.