Minister says Temple Mount status quo should be changed so Jews can pray there
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Minister says Temple Mount status quo should be changed so Jews can pray there

Gilad Erdan stresses new arrangement should come from ‘diplomatic agreements and not by force’; draws criticism from Jordan

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during a ceremony for the outgoing Jerusalem police chief at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on February 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during a ceremony for the outgoing Jerusalem police chief at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on February 7, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday said Israel should push to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, days after clashes at the Jerusalem holy site.

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.

Erdan, whose ministry oversees police responsible for security at the Temple Mount, voiced support in an interview 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.

Muslim worshipers perform the Eid al-Adha morning prayers at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The remarks drew a rebuke from Jordan, whose foreign ministry warned any change to the status quo at the Temple Mount could have serious consequences.

A ministry spokesman said Jordan, which Israel recognizes as custodian of the Temple Mount as part of the 1994 peace treaty between the countries, sent a letter of protest over the public security minister’s remarks through diplomatic channels.

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.

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.

On Sunday, Jordan’s foreign ministry slammed Israel for using force against Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount after clashes erupted there.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as the Palestinians, also condemned Israel over the clashes.

Israeli security forces clash with Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 11, 2019. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

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.

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