Two Palestinian Authority officials recently asserted that Islamic law forbids Jews from praying at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, both adding that the wall was an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
“Allah decreed that the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque is Islamic and belongs to Muslims alone,” Tayseer Al-Tamimi, former Chief Justice of PA Religious Court said last month, according to a translation newly provided by watchdog NGO Palestinian Media Watch.
“It is part of the religious belief of a billion and a half Muslims, and the Jews have no right to it… or the right to pray in any part of it. The Al-Aqsa Mosque includes all its courtyards… and specifically, its western wall,” al Tamimi said
Palestinian Authority Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash also stated last month that non-Muslims should be barred from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which, according to him, includes the Western Wall.
“The Al-Aqsa Mosque will remain, by divine decree, a Muslim mosque, will not be shared with anyone, will not be forfeited, and no one besides Muslims will pray in it,” he said.
In an interview with the official PA television station in December last year, Al-Habbash stated that the Western Wall is “an authentic part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque only.”
During the same interview, Al-Habbash said that “freedom of worship in our Jerusalem is guaranteed to all,” but added that “nonetheless, we have rights, principles and positions that cannot possibly be altered.”
The Temple Mount compound, referred to by Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site to Jews. By law, under arrangements Israel instituted after capturing the area in 1967, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site.
In February, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin initiated a first-of-its-kind Knesset debate to examine the right of non-Muslims to enter and pray at the holy compound, with over 30 MKs from both right-wing and left-wing parties seeking to voice their opinion on the divisive topic.
A resurgence of interest in prayer on the Temple Mount has provoked outrage among Palestinians and others in the Muslim world, who accuse Israel of attempting to “Judaize” the site, which Palestinians claim for their future state.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report