PA demands full Muslim oversight over Jewish visitors to Temple Mount

Officials warn that Abbas will sever security coordination with IDF if demand not met; Netanyahu has vowed no concessions to Palestinian terror

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Thousands of Palestinians pray outside Al-Aqsa Mosque, atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha in October 2014. (Sliman Khader/FLASH90)
Thousands of Palestinians pray outside Al-Aqsa Mosque, atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, on the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha in October 2014. (Sliman Khader/FLASH90)

The Palestinian Authority has warned Israel that it will soon halt security coordination with the IDF in the West Bank unless the Muslim authorities on the Temple Mount are given full administrative control over Jewish groups visiting the holy site, PA officials told The Times of Israel on Thursday. The PA is also demanding that Israel take action to stop what it claims is escalated violence against Palestinians by settlers in the West Bank.

The PA’s demands came amid a wave of Palestinian terror and violence which has seen 10 Israelis killed in the past month and a half, and more than 40 Palestinians killed — almost half of them attackers, and most of the rest in clashes in the West Bank and at the Gaza border.

“Israel must restore control of the Temple Mount to the Waqf (Muslim trust),” said one official close to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. “This is one of the only measures that can help calm the current situation.”

Until 2000, the entry of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount — the holiest place in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam — was coordinated with the Waqf. The area was then closed to Jews for three years until 2003 as the Second Intifada raged. Since it was reopened to Jewish visitors, Israel Police has overseen the visits by Jewish groups. Under Israel’s regulations, imposed after the Old City was captured in the 1967 war, Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray on the Temple Mount.

The PA officials also claimed Israel was “allowing settlers to use violence against the Palestinians,” and urged the government to stop this. They said they had conveyed a message to this effect to the Israeli government.

Israel has accused Abbas and the PA of partial responsibility for the terror surge, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly castigating Abbas for telling “lies” about purported Israeli plans to change the status quo at the Mount and for inciting violence over the issue. Netanyahu, who has denied any such plans and offered to meet Abbas without preconditions, has also vowed to make no concessions to the Palestinians in response to the current surge in terrorism.

The PA officials said that their security forces have prevented a series of recent attacks on Israeli targets, including stabbings, shootings and the planting of explosives. PA security forces have been active during Palestinian demonstrations to prevent the use of live fire against IDF soldiers, and intervened when a gunman opened fire on soldiers during a recent protest near Beit El, they said. Israeli security officials have acknowledged the value of the ongoing PA security coordination.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office denied that Israel has offered to reduce the number of Jewish and non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount in an effort to calm tensions at the site and help end the wave of terror attacks. Arab diplomatic officials had told The Times of Israel that this offer was rejected by Palestinian and Jordanian leaders as not going far enough to meet their demands.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Jordan's King Abdullah II, during the former's surprise visit to Amman on January 16, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Yousef Allan/Jordanian Royal Palace)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II during the former’s surprise visit to Amman on January 16, 2014 (AP/Yousef Allan/Jordanian Royal Palace)

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