Jordan’s King Abdullah II and other Jordanian government officials have been working to ensure that the Knesset does not ratify a bill that would allow Jews to pray at the Temple Mount, a Jordanian official said Tuesday.
Khalid al-Shawabka, Jordan’s Ambassador to the Palestinian territories, claimed that Israeli MKs were attempting to pass a resolution which would effectively divide the compound between Muslims and Jews, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported.
“Jordan’s foreign minister has sent strongly-worded messages to foreign ministers of member states of the UN Security Council and to the UN demanding an end to the systematic assaults on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and on worshipers,” al-Shawabka told the news agency in an interview.
“[T]he Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem are red lines,” al-Shawabka said, using a Muslim name for the compound. He added that the situation on the ground in the Israeli capital was “unacceptable,” though he did not elaborate.
Amman sees it’s role as custodian of holy sites in East Jerusalem. Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered workers to take down a temporary ramp that had been built next to the sole entrance for non-Muslim visitors, in order to avoid a diplomatic kerfuffle with Jordan.
Jews are currently forbidden from outwardly praying on the site, which is the holiest place in Judaism and the third holiest site in Islam. Jewish visits to the site have lately provoked protests by Palestinians, who clashed with police on several occasions, prompting its temporary closure.
In May, MKs Miri Regev (Likud) and Hilik Bar (Labor) said they would present for Knesset discussion a controversial bill to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, according to Ynet, but it is still unclear when they plan to do so.
Bar has since backed down from his support of the legislation, apparently after being heavily pressured to do so by members of his party, Haaretz reported.
“There is no reason that Jews should not be allowed to pray in the holiest site in the world,” Regev said, adding that she would fight for the initiative.
“I firmly believe that each event of Muslim unrest on the Mount should lead to its closure to Arabs. The prime minister is not the only decider on the issue, and if the proposal does not pass I’ll turn to the High Court of Justice in a public petition until Jews are allowed to pray with tallit and tefillin on the Temple Mount,” Ynet quoted Regev as saying.
The Temple Mount compound, which holds the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site to Jews as the site of the two ancient Jewish temples.
Regev stressed that the bill will in no way change the status quo inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the southern perimeter of the plaza.
But Regev’s assertion did not prevent senior Palestinian political analyst Abdel Raouf Arnaout from reporting that the Likud MK and Bar were scheming to divide prayer times inside Al-Aqsa between Jews and Muslims, as is the case in Hebron’s Tomb of Patriarchs.
The law, he wrote in Saudi daily Al-Watan, “claims that the mosque is holy to Jews as it is to Muslims and that Jews should be allowed to pray in it, as is the case with the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the West Bank.”
On Friday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for Jews to be barred from the Temple Mount in a fiery address.
“It is our sacred place, al-Aqsa [mosque] is ours, this Noble Sanctuary is ours. They have no right to go there and desecrate it,” Abbas said, according to Israel Radio.
He insisted that defending al-Aqsa was tantamount to defending Jerusalem, which the Palestinians are demanding as the capital of their future state.
“Jerusalem is the jewel in the crown and it is the eternal capital of the Palestinian state. Without it, there will not be a state,” he said.
On Saturday, he reiterated the statement, calling Jewish visitors “a herd of cattle.”
Abbas’s speech seemed to echo the sentiments of the Hamas terror group, which organized a demonstration in Gaza City to call for the defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and the alleged “threats” posed to the site by Israel. Hamas leader in exile Mashaal has accused Israel of trying to take over al-Aqsa Mosque as well.
Earlier this month, three policemen were injured during protests against restrictions on Muslim worship at the mosque. Police used stun grenades as a crowd of about 400 people gathered near the entrance to the mosque, an AFP photographer reported.
Last week, Israel Police forces surrounded the al-Aqsa mosque and entered the plaza atop the Temple Mount after receiving information that Palestinian activists had gathered stones and set barbed wire obstacles in preparation for planned attacks against Jewish visitors to the site.
Upon entering the site, police were met with rocks, firebombs and fireworks, which were hurled at them by the protesters, Israel Radio reported. The rioters were then pushed back into the mosque. Police removed multiple obstacles at the site, including stretches of barbed wire, and it was finally opened to non-Muslim visitors at 7:30 a.m.
The simmering tensions prompted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to say he was “deeply concerned by repeated provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem,” which “inflame tensions and must stop.”
Netanyahu, on his part, blamed “Palestinian extremists” for the repeated clashes at the contested site.
On Sunday, police opened an investigation after graffiti was found in the Temple Mount compound depicting a swastika as the equivalent of a Star of David.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.