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.
“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.
“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.”
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.