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Arab lawmakers to confer with Jordan’s king about Temple Mount

After meetings in Jordan, Joint List members will head to Turkey; MK Ahmad Tibi says ‘change in status quo’ at site on the agenda

Israeli police use stun grenades to disperse Palestinian demonstrators in the Old City of Jerusalem during scuffles on the Temple Mount on September 15, 2015. (AFP/THOMAS COEX)
Israeli police use stun grenades to disperse Palestinian demonstrators in the Old City of Jerusalem during scuffles on the Temple Mount on September 15, 2015. (AFP/THOMAS COEX)

A delegation of five Arab members of Knesset was set to leave for Jordan on Sunday for a meeting with King Abduallah II in Amman to discuss the recent escalation in violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The group, from the Joint (Arab) list, will later travel from Jordan to Turkey to confer with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports said, although a party spokesman said it wasn’t certain that the meeting with the Turkish leader would go ahead.

Both Erdogan and Abdullah have blamed Israel in recent days for the clashes.

Party chairman MK Ahmad Tibi told Israel Radio in an interview that the purpose of the meetings was to discuss the “change in the status quo” at the Temple Mount, which houses the al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The delegation of Jont (Arab) Lift Knesset Members in Amman, Jordan on September 20, 2015. From R to L: MK Osama Silwadi, MK  Aida Touma-Silman, MK  Dr. Jamal Zahalka, MK Ahmad Tibi, MK Taleb Abu Arar. (courtesy Joint List)
The delegation of Jont (Arab) Lift Knesset Members in Amman, Jordan on September 20, 2015. From R to L: MK Osama Silwadi, MK Aida Touma-Silman, MK Dr. Jamal Zahalka, MK Ahmad Tibi, MK Taleb Abu Arar. (courtesy Joint List)

MK Avigdor Liberman, leader of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu party, denounced the trip and accused the MKs of working to inflame tensions, the Hebrew-language Maariv website reported.

“This is another step in the constant behavior of incitement by Knesset members from the Joint List, who are busy night and day in anti-Israeli activities, and do everything that they can to agitate and destabilize the situation in the region and damage Israel, where they sit in the parliament,” he said. “I suggest that they also add another stop in the planned visit and that they travel to Syria and stay there.”

Jewish Home party MK Bezalel Smotrich called the delegation’s actions “treason.”

“The theater of the absurd continues,” Smotrich said. “Arab MKs from the Joint List are joining with Erdogan to continue the anti-Semitic diatribes against Israel. In a normal country such an act is called treason.”

“To my regret, there is no change in the status quo in everything concerning the presence of Jews on the Temple Mount, and nonetheless the Arab MKs decided to go on a advocacy campaign against Israel and to fan the flames of terror.”

Smotrich called on the Knesset Ethics Committee to quickly act against what he termed a “provocative step.”

The trip comes after nearly a week of daily violence on the Temple Mount, around Jerusalem and in the West Bank. The unrest on the Mount began last Sunday, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, after police, acting on information from the Shin Bet security service, raided the compound and found pipe bombs and other improvised weapons, apparently prepared in advance for a riot to disrupt visits by Jews to the site.

Overnight Saturday two Molotov cocktails were thrown at a building in the Nof Zion neighborhood, a Jewish community that lies in East Jerusalem. One of the incendiary devices caused damage to the building. There were no injuries in the incident and police launched an investigation to trace the perpetrators.

During the night security forces arrested four people on charges of rioting. Two of those detained were minors. In total 27 people were arrested during disturbances over the weekend.

So far, police have used rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and other nonlethal measures to quell riots in Jerusalem or to combat incidents where Palestinians throw rocks at Israeli forces, pedestrians or cars.

On Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi urged Israel to take swift measures to calm tensions around the Temple Mount.

The compound is the holiest site in Judaism, which venerates it as the site of the biblical temples, and the third-holiest site in Islam. Under long-standing regulations introduced by Israel when it captured Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

The UN, US and EU — and a number of Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Morocco — have urged restraint on both sides amid the latest clashes, while Jordan, which has custodianship rights over Muslim holy places in Jerusalem under its 1994 peace treaty with Israel, has warned that bilateral relations are at stake.

AFP contributed to this report.

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