Jordan on Tuesday slammed Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for saying Israel should work to change the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.
As part of an arrangement in place since the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the Old City and East Jerusalem from Jordan, non-Muslims are barred from praying at the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam.
The compound was the site of clashes between Muslim worshipers and police on Sunday over the entry of Jews during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which this year coincided with the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av.
Erdan, whose ministry oversees police responsible for security at the Temple Mount, voiced support in an interview Tuesday for changing the existing arrangements there.
“I think there is in an injustice in the status quo that has existed since ’67,” he told Israel’s Radio 90. “We need to work to change it so in the future Jews, with the help of God, can pray at the Temple Mount.”
He clarified that he opposes introducing such a change unilaterally.
“This needs to be achieved by diplomatic agreements and not by force,” Erdan said.
In a statement carried by the official Petra news agency, a spokesman for Jordan’s foreign ministry said the country rejected Erdan’s comments and warned any change to the status quo at the Temple Mount could have serious consequences.
The spokesman said Jordan sent a letter of protest over the public security minister’s remarks through diplomatic channels.
Under the 1994 peace treaty between the countries, Israel recognizes Jordan as the custodian of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem holy sites.
Responding to the Jordanian statement, Foreign Minister Israel Katz defended Erdan and said Israel was the sovereign over the holy site, though he noted Jordan’s role as the Islamic custodian there.
“It is Minister Erdan’s right to put a suggestion on the table for discussion. He didn’t force it but rather set it down. But the sovereignty is the State of Israel’s,” Katz, like Erdan a member of the ruling Likud party, told Kan public radio.
Talk or even rumors of changes to the status quo arrangement at the holy site are typically met with vociferous protest from the Muslim world, which has accused Israel of attempting to “judaize” the site or expand access for Jewish pilgrims.
Some Jewish activists have pushed for Israel to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount as part of the country’s commitment to freedom of religion. On Sunday Tamar Zandberg, a lawmaker from the left-wing Meretz party, tweeted that Jews have a right to pray there but the best way to guarantee freedom of worship is through a diplomatic arrangement.
On Sunday, Jordan’s foreign ministry slammed Israel for using force against Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount after clashes erupted there.
“We completely condemn Israel’s violations of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Jordanian FM Ayman Safadi tweeted. “The occupation authorities’ absurd actions and attempts to change the status quo in occupied Jerusalem will only lead to the conflict being exacerbated and the situation blowing up, threatening international peace and security. We call on the international community to assume its responsibilities and pressure Israel to stop its violations.”
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as the Palestinians, also condemned Israel over the clashes.
Doron Yadid, the Jerusalem police commander, pushed back Sunday when asked whether the decision to allow non-Muslims onto the Temple Mount during an Islamic holiday was a violation of the status-quo at the holy site.
“As long as I’ve known this place — and I’ve known it for many years — the morning prayers for the holiday begin at 6:30 in the morning. Miraculously, they changed [the time of] the prayers to 7:30. Is this not a change of the status quo,” he told reporters.
According to Erdan, 1,729 Jews entered the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av, a new record high for a single day.
Initially, police announced Sunday that non-Muslims would be barred from entering the Temple Mount, where tens of thousands of Muslim worshipers had arrived during the morning. Hundreds of Jews had gathered at the gates leading to the holy site on Sunday morning.
But following an uproar from right-wing ministers and lawmakers, a first round of Jewish visitors was allowed to enter the site. Several dozen visited under close police escort, but Muslim worshipers began throwing chairs and other objects at the group, and the Jewish visitors left the compound shortly thereafter.
With fewer Muslim worshipers on site than there were in the morning, the second round of visits by Jews took place largely without incident.