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Israel, Jordan to convene joint panel on lowering Temple Mount tensions — report

Amman slated to demand greater presence of Waqf guards at flashpoint site following weeks of violent clashes, according to Axios

Palestinians perform Friday prayers, the third of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Palestinians perform Friday prayers, the third of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Temple Mount compound on April 22, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Israeli and Jordanian officials are expected to soon meet to discuss efforts to prevent a violent flareup at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, according to a report by the Axios news site.

Jordan, which oversees the flashpoint site via its control of the Waqf Islamic endowment that administers the compound, has been sharply and repeatedly critical in recent weeks of the behavior of Israeli security forces atop the Temple Mount. Violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces at the site broke out on multiple occasions over the past few weeks, during heightened tensions as Muslims mark Ramadan and Jews observed Passover.

According to the report, which cites three unnamed Israeli and Western sources, a joint committee will convene after Ramadan — which ends next week — in a bid to reach an agreement on how to lower tensions at the holy site and prevent any violent incidents there.

According to the report, one of Amman’s main demands is expected to be for Israel to allow more unarmed guards at the Temple Mount on behalf of the Waqf.

On Sunday, Jordan’s King Abdullah met in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, with tensions in Jerusalem at the top of the agenda.

He was set to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday night, as some 150,000 Muslim worshipers packed the shrine for Layl al-Qadr  (Night of Destiny), when Muslims believe the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad.

A statement from the Jordanian Royal Court Sunday emphasized efforts to “restore calm in Jerusalem, end all forms of escalation, and remove obstacles impeding worshippers’ access.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on April 24. 2022. (Royal Hashemite Court)

Abdullah also called on Israel to maintain the religious status quo on the Temple Mount and “emphasized the importance of respecting the Hashemite Custodianship” of holy sites in the capital. The king also “stressed the need to respect the historical and legal status quo” at the holy site.

Israel’s ambassadors to Jordan and the UAE were both summoned for dressing downs by their host countries this month after police entered Al-Aqsa Mosque multiple times to quash Palestinian riots.

Jordan has accused Israel of violating the status quo at the site, under which Muslims are allowed to visit and pray while Jews cannot pray and may only visit during restricted time slots.

In a briefing to journalists last week, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reiterated that Israel is fully committed to maintaining the status quo at the site.

But Jordan and other Arab allies have chafed at Israeli calls to maintain “freedom of worship” at the site, which some have interpreted as allowing Jewish prayer atop the Temple Mount, something seen as a major escalation.

Hebrew media reports have often documented Jewish visitors to the site quietly praying under their breath while Israeli security forces look the other way. Israel has averred that such instances are not sanctioned and are not part of any shift in policy.

After a regional meeting last week in Jordan on the Jerusalem tensions, Amman’s foreign minister told reporters that his counterparts were demanding an end to Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount. “Our demands are clear that Al-Aqsa and Haram al-Sharif in all its area is a sole place of worship for Muslims,” Ayman Safadi said.

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