Amid ongoing tensions in Jerusalem, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Tuesday that Israel has “no sovereignty” over holy sites in the city, which he said were “occupied Palestinian land.”
Jordan ruled the West Bank and East Jerusalem from 1948 until the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the area and subsequently claimed sovereignty in the Old City and an expanded Jerusalem. Jordan has long maintained that its treaties with Israel grant it custodianship over Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites; while Israel has never accepted this claim, it grants day-to-day administration of the Temple Mount to the Jordan-funded Waqf.
In an interview with Jordanian Al-Mamlaka TV, the top diplomat proclaimed that “Israel has no sovereignty in the Al-Aqsa Mosque — it is a place of Muslim worship. Only the Jordanian Waqf has full authority over the management of the compound.”
Safadi expressed hope that tensions at the holy site will soon calm down, but said that “the only way is by respecting the status quo.”
He accused Israel of “making it difficult for the Waqf to take steps in order to maintain security in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as interfering with Waqf members’ duties.”
“The Waqf has appointed dozens of new workers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex but Israel is putting obstacles in their way,” Safadi said.
The top diplomat’s remarks came after the Prime Minister’s Office earlier Tuesday denied that Israel had agreed to a demand from Jordan to increase the staff of the Waqf.
“There is no change or new development in the situation on the Temple Mount — Israel’s sovereignty is preserved,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
“All decisions will be made by the Israeli government out of considerations of sovereignty, freedom of religion and security, and without pressure from foreign factors or political factors,” the statement read.
The denial by the PMO came after Kan news reported on Monday that Public Security Minister Omer Barlev had agreed to a request by Amman to expand staffing at the site. The unsourced report said that the police would support the move.
Known as Haram al-Sharif or the Al-Aqsa complex to Muslims, the Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest.
It has long been a flashpoint for violence and conflict, with tensions again surging in recent weeks, including Palestinian riots, clashes with the Israel Police, and Jewish attempts to pray on the Mount.
Any changes to the longstanding status quo on the Mount, under which non-Muslims can visit but not pray, can lead to violence.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II is traveling in the US where he is expected to meet with US President Joe Biden to discuss tensions over the holy site.
Recent tensions at the holy site have been followed by terror attacks, pressure from Israel’s allies, threats from Hamas, and the exacerbation of the ongoing coalition crisis.
The clashes have also led to escalating diplomatic tensions between Israel and Jordan.
Abdullah has condemned Israel for the clashes, slamming the state for allowing Jewish pilgrims to enter the site and calling on the Israeli government to respect “the historical and legal status quo” there, according to a recent statement from the Royal Hashemite Court.