Israel rejects Jordanian offer to manage Temple Mount
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Israel rejects Jordanian offer to manage Temple Mount

Jerusalem said to suggest deploying plainclothes Palestinian police on contested holy site

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Israeli police stand guard at the entrance to the al-Aqsa compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
Israeli police stand guard at the entrance to the al-Aqsa compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Israel recently rejected a Jordanian proposal that would have seen the Hashemite Kingdom begin to oversee visits to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem instead of Israel, Arab sources told The Times of Israel on Monday.

During recent meetings between officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jordanian government, the latter proposed giving the Jordanian-run Muslim Waqf control over entry to the contested holy site — as it had until the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. Since then Israel has effectively exerted control over entrance to the Temple Mount complex, which is considered Judaism’s holiest site and the third holiest to Muslims.

The Jordanian proposal was aimed at calming tensions over the compound, which has been the focal point of violent Palestinian unrest in the past month. The current outbreak of violence has been fueled by rumors that Israel is plotting to take over the area, where Jews can currently visit but not pray. Israel has adamantly denied the allegations, saying it has no plans to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, and accused the Palestinians of incitement by spreading the rumors.

According to Waqf statistics, 5,790 non-Muslims visited the site in 2010, whereas 12,569 arrived in 2014 and a similar number in 2015.

The sources also said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a meeting with King Abdullah II, but was rejected. The Arab sources said that was perhaps due to the prime minister’s categorical rejection of Amman’s Temple Mount proposal.

According to a report in a Kuwaiti Arabic-language paper on Monday, Israeli officials proposed in a clandestine meeting with PA security officials that Palestinian plainclothes police officers be stationed on the Temple Mount. The meeting reportedly took place in Ramallah last Saturday.

Undercover Palestinian police had been stationed on the Temple Mount in a similar fashion before the outbreak of the Second Intifada.

Running counter to Jordan’s call to return management of the site to the 2000 status quo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s office was also reportedly putting pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to calm tensions with Israel without any changes to Temple Mount management.

The Jordanian suggestion came as France submitted a United Nations proposal for an international presence on the Temple Mount, to ensure that the status quo is upheld. Netanyahu on Saturday slammed the French proposal and the Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the French ambassador in Israel over the matter.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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