Contradicting remarks by a top Palestinian official, Mahmoud al-Habash, the supreme sharia judge in the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser on religious and Islamic affairs, insisted that the Western Wall must be under the control of Muslims and must never be conceded.
“The al-Buraq wall is an integral part of the Islamic faith and religion, and is associated with the Prophet Muhammad,” he said in a sermon Friday, using the Islamic name for the Western Wall.
“It is an Islamic Waqf (endowment) that can never be for non-Muslims. It cannot be under the sovereignty of non-Muslims… The al-Buraq wall belongs to us and can not be conceded,” he added.
“We cannot possibly relinquish a single millimeter, a single stone, a single micromillimeter of the Al-Buraq Wall and of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said in the sermon, which was broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV. (A video of the speech was posted by the MEMRI watchdog group.)
The wall is revered by Jews for its historical connection to the ancient Jewish temples in Jerusalem. As part of the retaining walls of the Second Temple, it is the Jewish people’s holiest place of prayer.
Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad tethered his winged steed, named Buraq, to the wall during his miraculous journey from Mecca to Jerusalem.
Habash’s statements came days after senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub departed from the regular PA position, and declared that the wall is a Jewish holy site that must remain under Jewish sovereignty.
Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 TV, Rajoub, who is also head of the Palestinian Football Association, was praising US President Donald Trump’s efforts to reach a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians and commenting on Trump’s visit last month to Israel and the West Bank.
“He went to the Western Wall, which we understand is a holy place to the Jews. In the end, it must remain under Jewish sovereignty. We have no argument about that. This is a Jewish holy place,” said Rajoub, who is sometimes touted as a successor to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Rajoub, who spoke Hebrew in the interview, later attempted to deny he had made the comments, which were aired in full on Israeli television. In a Facebook post on Sunday, Rajoub claimed his remarks were mistranslated, and that he had not referred to Israeli sovereignty.
Trump was the first serving US president to visit the Western Wall, though he stressed his was a private visit. His envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, also visited the wall, during her visit to Israel last week.
Habash has stated many times before in his sermons that the Western Wall is Islamic site.
In an interview with The Times of Israel last July, however, Habash attempted to explain how the site can be exclusively Islamic, but somehow also open to Jewish citizens of Israel in the event of peace deal.
“Waqf means it belongs to God. Not to anybody. So, we can get used to sharing it with the non-Muslims,” he said.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.