‘Temple Mount won’t be like Mecca, Medina,’ senior Likud MK says
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'We will honor the holiness of Al-Aqsa Mosque and we will stand by our rights on the Temple Mount'

‘Temple Mount won’t be like Mecca, Medina,’ senior Likud MK says

Ex-Shin Bet chief says Israel won’t allow holy site to be exclusive to Muslims; Jordanian minister accuses Jews of ‘viciously storming’ compound

Israeli security forces stand guard as a group of Jewish men end their visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, during the annual Tisha B'Av fast day on August 14, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli security forces stand guard as a group of Jewish men end their visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, during the annual Tisha B'Av fast day on August 14, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)

The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday hit back at Jordan’s allegations of Israeli misconduct at the Temple Mount, saying Jerusalem will not allow the holy site to become exclusive to Muslims like the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina.

Earlier Monday, King Abdullah II said his country would continue to defend the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from what he called “repeated stormings” by “extremist” Jews, and by opposing attempts “to divide the al-Aqsa Mosque temporally or spatially.”

Hours later, a Jordanian minister denounced the “vicious” visits to the site by some 200 Jews on Sunday, who were commemorating the Tisha B’Av day of mourning for the destruction of the two Temples at the compound.

Likud MK Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet security agency, told Israel Radio the Palestinians were expanding their protests against having Jews in the vicinity of the Al-Aqsa mosque to barring non-Muslims from the entire area.

An aerial view shows the Temple Mount, the most holy site to Jews, and the Al-Aqsa mosque compound with the Dome of the Rock, the third most holiest site to Muslims in Jerusalem's Old City (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
An aerial view shows the Temple Mount, the most holy site to Jews, and the Al-Aqsa mosque compound with the Dome of the Rock, the third most holiest site to Muslims in Jerusalem’s Old City (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

“Recently there is an intensifying trend called ‘the defense of al-Aqsa.’ This defense has greatly widened from the mosque in the southern portion of the Temple Mount; now they are talking about the entire area of the Temple Mount. Israel will not lend a hand to this,” Dichter said.

“The thought that they will do to the Temple Mount what has been done in Saudi Arabia, where it has been decreed that the holy cities of Islam — Mecca and Medina — are just for Muslims — this type of twisted thought will not be allowed to be realized,” he added.

Likud MK Avi Dichter in the Knesset, March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Avi Dichter in the Knesset, March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We will honor the holiness of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and we will stand by our rights on the Temple Mount,” the former Shin Bet chief said.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam. The compound, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque atop it, have been a recurring source of tension in Jerusalem in recent years.

Palestinians have cited Israeli “provocations” there as one of the main catalysts for months of violent attacks this year and late last year. They have become increasingly wary of Israel’s intentions at the holy site, often accusing the Jewish state of attempting to impose greater control over the compound, and even of planning to eliminate the mosque and establish Jewish hegemony there. Israel has repeatedly denied any change in the status-quo at the site, under which Jews may visit, but may not pray.

In addition to King Abdullah’s criticism of Israel, Jordan’s Minister of Waqf and Islamic Affairs Wael Arabiyat on Monday slammed as “vicious” the visit to the Temple Mount Sunday of some 200 Jews commemorating the fast day of Tisha B’Av.

On Monday, Arabiyat charged that “400 Israeli settlers” who visited the site created “a blatant challenge to the feelings of Muslims and a clear violation of international law and norms.”

In a report by the official Jordanian news agency, Petra, the minister is said to have charged the Jews with “assaulting and arresting the [Muslim] worshipers and the talmudic rituals the settlers performed in the mosque.”

Ultra-Orthodox Jews read lamentations outside one of the entrances to the Temple Mount, during the annual Tisha B'Av (Ninth of Av) fasting and memorial day, commemorating the destruction of ancient Jerusalem Temples, on August 14, 2016, in Jerusalem's Old City. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
Ultra-Orthodox Jews read lamentations outside one of the entrances to the Temple Mount, during the annual Tisha B’Av (Ninth of Av) fasting and memorial day, commemorating the destruction of ancient Jerusalem Temples, on August 14, 2016, in Jerusalem’s Old City. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)

The report called the visits, “Israeli assaults against the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” and claimed the Jews who visited the site were “ultra-Orthodox.” The vast majority of ultra-Orthodox rabbinic authorities forbid their adherents from visiting the holy site for reasons of ritual purity.

During the Jewish “assault,” the “steadfast brethren of the al-Aqsa mosque, youth and worshipers…stood up against the vicious raids,” the Jordanian report said.

“The minister also warned that the continuation of such violations will trigger a religious war which His Majesty King Abdullah II has repeatedly warned against,” the Petra report said.

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