Jordan’s King Abdullah on Sunday told a delegation of visiting Israeli Arab Knesset members that the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem was for “Muslim prayer only.”
Abdullah also reiterated his criticism of Israel’s response to the recent escalation in violence on the Temple Mount, where the mosque compound is situated. Israeli security forces have repeatedly clashed with Muslim protesters in and around the Temple Mount over the past week. The clashes were triggered by a police raid at the mosque in the run-up to the Jewish new year festival of Rosh Hashanah that turned up pipe bombs, stockpiles of rocks and firecrackers as well as a barricade at an entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque.
“What is Netanyahu trying do achieve with this action; is he trying to cause an explosion?” Abdullah said during a meeting with members of the Joint (Arab) List in Amman, the Hebrew-language Maariv website reported.
Abdullah said that the recent unrest on the Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam — would be on the agenda during his meetings at the UN next week.
The king also Sunday urged the European Union to take a firm stand against Israel over the clashes, as he met the EU president on Sunday.
“The international community and the EU in particular should adopt a firm position to halt these serious aggressions and violations” by the Jewish state, he told Donald Tusk.
The delegation of MKs is expected to travel from Jordan to Turkey for a possible meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the issue later this week.
A Jewish presence on the Temple Mount is largely seen by the Arab world as part of an Israeli attempt to seize control of the site and nullify the current status quo agreement that allows Jews to visit but not pray at the site.
Both Erdogan and Abdullah last week blamed Israel for the clashes.
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi told Israel Radio on Sunday that the purpose of the meetings was to discuss the “change in the status quo” at the Mount.
A number of MKs slammed the Joint List delegation’s actions as anti-Semitic and said the visit amounted to “treason.”
MK Avigdor Liberman, leader of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu party, accused the lawmakers of working to inflame tensions, Maariv reported earlier on Sunday.
“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.”
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.”
Freshman Likud MK Oren Hazan also criticized the meeting, and called on Abdullah and “longtime friend” Erdogan to meet with him for a “realistic perspective” on the fight against terrorism.
“Tibi is leading a delegation of terrorists in the peace process, preaching a false reality and spreading lies and hatred aimed at damaging Israel,” he said. “I call upon King Abdullah and our longtime friend Erdogan to meet with me to receive a realistic perspective on life in Israel and the war on terrorism.”
On Sunday, a firetruck traveling near the settlement of Beitar Ilit south of Jerusalem was attacked by over a dozen stone throwers and a convoy of two cars traveling from the settlement of Tekoa to Jerusalem was attacked by a similarly large group of stone throwers near the village of Beit Sahur. No injuries were reported in either incident.
Last week, the UN and US 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 ties are at stake.
AP and Stuart Winer contributed to this report.