Amid escalating diplomatic tensions with Jordan over recent clashes on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that he views “with utmost severity” comments blaming Israel for the violence.
Bennett spoke after Israel’s Foreign Ministry directly accused Jordan of “backing those who… resort to violence.”
Alluding to comments made earlier in the day by Jordan’s prime minister, Bennett lashed out at “the remarks accusing Israel of the violence directed against us,” and fumed that “there are those who are encouraging rock-throwing and the use of violence against the citizens of the State of Israel.
This is unacceptable to us,” he said. “This is a reward for the inciters, especially Hamas, which are trying to ignite violence in Jerusalem. We will not allow this to happen.”
Bennett vowed, “The State of Israel will continue to provide for and safeguard the dignity of all of us, to enable everyone to celebrate in Jerusalem. And, most of all, he said, “our forces will continue to provide security for the citizens of the State of Israel.”
While Bennett’s statement did not specifically name Jordan, relations between Amman and Jerusalem have appeared to deteriorate rapidly over the past few days, following violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the holy site.
Earlier Monday, Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh hailed Palestinian rioters and used unusually hostile language to condemn “Zionist sympathizers” and what he called Israel’s “occupation government.”
“I salute every Palestinian, and all the employees of the Jordanian Islamic Waqf, who proudly stand like minarets, hurling their stones in a volley of clay at the Zionist sympathizers defiling the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the Israeli occupation government,” Khasawneh told a session of the Jordanian parliament.
Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar directly responded to the Jordanian prime minister’s remarks, tweeting that “statements made by senior officials in the Kingdom of Jordan are grave and unacceptable.”
“The sovereignty of Israel in Jerusalem as its capital is the guarantee of freedom of worship for members of all religions in the city. The attempts of extremist and terrorist elements, such as Hamas, to ignite the territory through a false anti-Israel campaign are transparent and should be condemned,” he added.
Jordan’s foreign ministry summoned the Israeli envoy in the kingdom, Deputy Ambassador Sami Abu Janeb, to reprimand him over the actions of Israeli security forces at Al-Aqsa Mosque, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The foreign ministry “summoned the charge d’affaires of the Israeli embassy in Amman… to deliver a message of protest over illegitimate and provocative Israeli violations at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” it said in a statement.
“The charge d’affaires was informed of a message of protest to be delivered immediately to his government, including calls for an immediate stop to Israeli violations and attempts targeting a change of the historic and legal situation” at Al-Aqsa, the ministry added.
Following the summoning of Abu Janeb, Israel’s Foreign Ministry accused Jordan of “harming efforts to establish peace in Jerusalem and backing those who harm the sanctity of the holidays and resort to violence that endangers the lives of Muslim and Jewish citizens alike.”
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said he intended to convene a meeting in the coming days attended by representatives of Arab League members Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, and Algeria for an emergency discussion regarding the situation in Jerusalem and Israel’s “aggression.”
Also Monday, 87 members of the Jordanian parliament signed a letter calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in protest of Israeli “aggression” at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday held a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the ongoing clashes. On Twitter, Abdullah’s office said the two “stressed the need to cease all illegal and provocative Israeli measures in Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Friday morning saw almost 500 Palestinian rioters arrested and more than 150 people injured in violence in and around Al-Aqsa, after Palestinians threw rocks and clashed with Israeli police, who entered the mosque to confront them.
Sunday saw Palestinian rioters throw rocks at Israeli buses en route to the Western Wall, as well as in the Temple Mount compound, in an attempt to prevent non-Muslims from touring the site. Police responded by entering the compound and dispersing the crowd with riot control measures.
According to the Red Crescent, 17 Palestinians were treated for injuries sustained Sunday morning in clashes with police at the site, five of whom were taken to the hospital. Police said that nine Palestinians were arrested.
Police said officers worked to distance the Palestinians to allow the Temple Mount visits to go ahead, and Jewish visitors were later seen touring the site. Bennett said Sunday that Israeli forces have “free rein” to continue operations to maintain security while stressing that officials were working to restore calm.
Jordan’s Abdullah condemned Israel for the clashes, slamming it for allowing Jewish pilgrims to enter the site and calling on the government to respect “the historical and legal status quo” there, according to a statement from the Royal Hashemite Court.
“His Majesty King Abdullah II directs the government to continue regional and international efforts to stop Israeli escalation and lobby for an international position that exerts pressure on Israel,” the statement said.
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said that “the Israel Police has no right to arrange visits of non-Muslims to the Temple Mount,” asserting that only the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf has the authority to arrange such visits.
“Israel’s measures to change the status quo on the Mount are a dangerous escalation. Israel bears full responsibility for the consequences of the current escalation that is thwarting efforts invested to bring about calm,” the statement added.
Jordan has long maintained that its treaties with Israel grant it custodianship over Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites; while Israel has never accepted this claim, it grants day-to-day administration of the Temple Mount to the Jordan-funded Waqf.
The recent clashes were also addressed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said in a tweet that his country “will always stay by the Palestinians’ side,” and by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who asked the US to intervene in the matter.
Many Jews head to the Western Wall and the Old City during the week of Passover, which began Friday night. Non-Muslims can only visit the Temple Mount during certain hours and are officially barred from praying at the site, which is considered the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam.
However, recent reports have shown that police sometimes turn a blind eye to such prayers taking place.