Palestinians from across the political spectrum attacked reported Israeli government plans to allow Jewish prayer on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
On May 8, the Knesset’s Interior Committee, headed by Likud MK Miri Regev, debated the long-standing unofficial ban on Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, revered as the site of both Jewish temples and currently administered by the Islamic Wakf. At the meeting, Elhanan Glatt, the director general of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said that his ministry was examining the possibility of revising the informal ban on Jewish prayer at the site.
Hamas deputy politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouq on Sunday incorrectly described the Knesset session as an Israeli decision to encroach upon Islamic worship at the site, known in Arabic as Al-Haram Ash-Sharif.
“What the Zionist Knesset authorized is very dangerous,” wrote Abu Marzouq on his Facebook page late Sunday night. “They talk about dividing the al-Aqsa Mosque as an expression of freedom of worship!”
The icon of Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, erected by Muslim Caliph Omar at the end of the seventh century on the southern perimeter of the Temple Mount, has often served as a call to arms against Israel. A visit by opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in September 2000 was used as a casus belli to spark the Second Intifada, known in Arabic as the al-Aqsa Intifada.
Abu Marzouq asserted that, if Israel has its way, the al-Aqsa Mosque will be partitioned into Jewish and Muslim areas of worship, as is the case in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
“For them, freedom of worship is dividing what you have and maintaining what they have. For them, freedom of worship is 10 percent for the Muslims and 90% for the Jews in the Cave of the Patriarchs,” continued Abu Marzouq.
“This ominous Knesset decision will not stand, irrespective of the sacrifices.”
Palestinian sensitivity surrounding the al-Aqsa Mosque was already at a peak this week, following the detention for questioning of Jerusalem Mufti Mohammed Ahmed Hussein on May 8 and police restrictions placed on Muslim worshipers entering the Temple Mount ahead of Jerusalem Day.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Ensour expressed his government’s “deep concern” over the “Israeli violations against al-Aqsa Mosque,” as the Jordanian parliament voted in favor of expelling the Israeli ambassador to Jordan.
On Sunday, following a meeting of the PLO’s Executive Committee, PA President Mahmoud Abbas lambasted Israel for ostensibly creating facts on the ground in Jerusalem’s holiest site.
“An action like this cannot be ignored, and we shall not allow it to continue,” Abbas told WAFA news agency on Sunday. “If Israel dreams that through these daily attacks against the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque it will create facts on the ground, it is delusional.”
The statement issued by the PLO was even more harshly worded, asserting “the right of Muslim and Christian [Palestinians] … to protect the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque from the aggression of settlers and the dangers of Judaization, which the extremist Zionist organizations continue to impose under the auspices of the occupation authorities and with their blessing.”
At the Knesset meeting, Foreign Ministry official Freda Yuval warned that any change in the status of the Temple Mount will “arouse the entire world” against Israel.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved a decision to prevent MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) from visiting the Temple Mount for fear that it could spark violence and endanger Israel’s security.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.