Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a meeting in Amman last week, called on Jordan’s king and the Islamic foundation that administers the Temple Mount to exercise their authority to prevent disturbances at the holy site, according to details revealed in an Israeli report Monday.
During the Thursday meeting, attended by Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry, Jordan’s King Abdullah II expressed dissatisfaction regarding the Jewish Knesset members who had visited the Temple Mount in recent weeks, telling Netanyahu that their presence was inconsistent with the prime minister’s public assurances of maintaining the status quo of the compound, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif.
In response, Netanyahu reportedly told the king he was unable to restrict the movements of MKs, according to news site NRG.
Abdullah, however did acknowledge President Reuven Rivlin and Netanyahu’s recent requests that right-wing MKs refrain from visiting the contested holy site, and noted the decline in such visits over the last week, the Hebrew daily reported.
Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to Abdullah and Kerry that Israel has no intention of changing the delicate status quo at the Temple Mount, including leaving in place a controversial Israeli policy that bans prayer by non-Muslim visitors.
According to NRG, Netanyahu reminded Abdullah that Jordan maintains administrative control of the holy site, and encouraged the Hashemite Kingdom to take a larger role in restoring quiet. Netanyahu also pointed out that the recent clashes were carried out with the full knowledge of the Jerusalem Waqf.
Under the terms of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, the Temple Mount remains under Jordanian custodianship through the Waqf authorities, who maintain administrative charge of the holy site.
The site — the holiest in Judaism, and the third-holiest in Islam — has been a source of increased tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, which have led to a number of violent clashes, four terror attacks and an attempted assassination of a Temple Mount activist in just under a month.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was invited to attend the talks discussing the recent surge in violence in Jerusalem, refused to participate due to Netanyahu’s presence, according to the report, which cited an anonymous Palestinian source who spoke to the London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds al-Araby.
Netanyahu has publicly accused Palestinian Authority officials of disseminating irresponsible and false incitement against Israel, straining relations between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Jordan has taken a tough stance toward Israeli presence on the Temple Mount, and recalled its ambassador to Israel two weeks ago after an incident in which Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Temple Mount compound.
Kerry praised the “enormously constructive role of Jordan in trying to resolve these challenges,” at a press conference after the Amman talks, and went on to say that Israel and Jordan had agreed to take steps to “de-escalate the situation” in Jerusalem and to “restore confidence.”
Hours after the Amman talks, Israel announced that there would be no age restrictions for Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount on Friday for the weekly prayer, in an effort to lower tensions between Israel and Palestinians over the Jerusalem holy site. Restrictions on male worshipers have been imposed on several recent Fridays. The police have, on occasion, barred access to the site to Palestinian men under 35, or sometimes 50, years of age, fearing unrest and riots. Females of all ages have been allowed access the site.
“Firm commitments” were made to maintain the status quo at the compound in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, Kerry said at the press conference.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Amman would review its decision to recall its envoy to Israel based on Jerusalem’s implementation of its commitments to restore calm.
“Recalling our ambassador for consultation was a very clear signal that something has to be done to check these actions that are causing great concern,” Judeh said. “With intensively diplomacy we have seen a commitment on the part of Israel to respect and maintain the status quo and respect the Jordanian custodianship (of the holy sites). We have to wait to see if this is done.”