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Netanyahu: No change in Temple Mount policy

Prime Minister’s Office repeats vow that status quo will be maintained at holy site

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, November 05, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, November 05, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office repeated on Thursday his promise not to alter Israel’s policy regarding a ban on Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount.

“In last night’s security consultation, the Prime Minister made it clear that there will be no change in the status quo on the Temple Mount and that whoever expresses a different opinion is presenting a personal view and not the policy of the Government,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for the prime minister, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu reiterated his intention to support the decades-old understanding, reached in the wake of the 1967 war in which Israel captured the holy site, according to which Muslims may pray on the Temple Mount while Jewish prayer is limited to the Western Wall plaza.

Netanyahu also distanced himself for those who call for change.

The Temple Mount has been a source of friction between Israel and the Palestinians in recent months, with Palestinians frequently clashing with police in protests against Jewish visitors to the compound and statements from right-wing Israeli politicians calling for Jews to be allowed to pray there.

Following the shooting of Temple Mount Jewish prayer activist Yehudah Glick last week, Netanyahu said in the Knesset that Palestinian claims Israel planned to change the status quo were utterly false.

On Wednesday, the compound was briefly closed to visitors early in the day after Palestinians threw rocks and set off fireworks at security forces near the Mughrabi Gate, the only gate through which non-Muslims may enter the site.

The Muslim Waqf, which oversees the Temple Mount, claimed that Israeli police went deep into the mosque during its crackdown, as far as the preacher’s pulpit — the furthest Israeli security forces have ventured into the mosque since the 1967 Six Day War, Channel 2 reported.

Israeli authorities say officers only chased rioters into the entrance of the mosque, where they found a stash of stones, bottles, and Molotov cocktails that the demonstrators had readied in preparation for further violence.

Following the Wednesday clashes, Jordan warned it would reevaluate its diplomatic ties with Israel, including its 20-year peace accord, in light of what it termed Israeli “violations” on the Temple Mount.

Government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani told Al-Jazeera that “all legal and diplomatic options are open in order to respond to the Israeli violations of the al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Earlier in the day the Hashemite kingdom recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and moved to file a UN complaint over the incident.

Since capturing Jerusalem’s Old City in 1967, Israel has not allowed Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, where religious affairs are administered by the Jordan-based Waqf Muslim trust. Jordan’s responsibility as custodian of the mosque compound and other holy sites in the eastern part of the city is enshrined in its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site to Jews and also contains the third-holiest site to Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the nearby Dome of the Rock.

Meanwhile, violence has spread throughout East Jerusalem, with the city experiencing near-daily incidents of rioting and stone-throwing, as well as two terror attacks in the last two weeks, most recently on Wednesday. In each instance, a Palestinian man with links to a terrorist organization plowed his car into a crowd of people near a light rail stop.

Wednesday’s attack left one Border Police officer dead and over a dozen people wounded, and an October 22 attack left two people dead, including a three-month-old girl.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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