Arab MKs meet Jordan’s king amid concerns of Ramadan unrest at Temple Mount

Hadash-Ta’al head Ayman Odeh, lawmakers Tibi and Atauna reportedly ask Abdullah to ensure freedom of worship; king said to warn that Israeli government extremists seek escalation

Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) speaks with Hadash-Ta'al head Ayman Odeh and MKs Ahmad Tibi and Youssef Atauna in Amman, Jordan, March 4, 2024. (Royal Hashemite Court)
Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) speaks with Hadash-Ta'al head Ayman Odeh and MKs Ahmad Tibi and Youssef Atauna in Amman, Jordan, March 4, 2024. (Royal Hashemite Court)

Three Arab lawmakers met Monday with Jordan’s King Abdullah amid concerns that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan could amplify tensions in Jerusalem stemming from the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

MK Ayman Odeh, the head of the predominantly Arab Hadash-Ta’al alliance,  Ta’al chairman Ahmad Tibi, and Hadash MK Youssef Atauna traveled to Amman and asked the Jordanian monarch to pressure Israel to ensure freedom of worship at the Temple Mount during Ramadan, Channel 12 reported.

Abdullah reportedly warned the lawmakers of “extremists in the Israeli government that are trying to ignite the region through provocations at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has sought to impose sweeping restrictions on West Bank Palestinians’ ability to pray at Al-Aqsa during Ramadan, citing the security situation. He is reportedly also pushing to limit Arab Israeli citizens.

Other defense and political officials have warned such restrictions could serve to greatly inflame tensions stemming from the war in Gaza — sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre — which has ignited worldwide Muslim anger toward Israel.

Tibi told the Ynet news site following his meeting that Abdullah had said preventing access to the mosque “may lead to an outbreak [of violence].”

View of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, as seen from the Mount of Olives observatory, on February 25, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

“It was a very important meeting with the king in Amman, especially in the shadow of the aggression and war crimes in the Gaza Strip. The king is making efforts to bring an end to the war,” he said.

The monarchy said in an official statement that Abdullah warned “of the continuation of the war on Gaza and escalation in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which will expand the conflict” in the meeting.

“His Majesty says Jordan will continue to push for an end to the war on Gaza and providing humanitarian, relief, and medical aid by land and air to the Strip,” it added.

The flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City is the holiest site in Judaism, revered as the location of two ancient temples destroyed in antiquity. Known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, the hilltop compound is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Israel captured the Temple Mount and Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. However, it allowed the Jordanian Waqf to continue to maintain religious authority atop the Mount. Under their 1994 peace treaty, Israel recognized Amman’s “special role… in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.”

The Walla news site reported Sunday that Ben Gvir and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai had agreed to recommend some restrictions on worshipers attending prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The police chief reportedly backs allowing entry for both Arab Israelis and West Bank Palestinians, while limiting numbers for safety reasons.

Walla news added that Ben Gvir supported limiting the number of worshipers allowed on the Temple Mount to a few thousand at a time, to enable police to quickly respond should any violent disturbances break out.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrives at a voting station in Tel Aviv during the municipal elections, on February 27, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A police statement quoted by Walla said that the force’s position would be presented to the leadership “and not via the media.”

The police force will “continue to do everything in its power to maintain the balance between freedom of worship and public peace and security,” the statement added.

In February, a US official and an Israeli official told The Times of Israel that the Biden administration was highly concerned that Ben Gvir, through his policies and actions, could spark unrest at the Temple Mount during Ramadan.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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