The Temple Mount in Jerusalem .
(photo credit: JACK BROOK)
Israel will not let Mecca and Medina rules apply on the Temple Mount, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter said on Monday, referring to the two holy cities in Saudi Arabia where entrance is prohibited to non-Muslims.
“The idea that what was done in Saudi Arabia – where two cities holy to Islam, Mecca and Medina, are sites where only Muslims have the right to enter – will be done on the Temple Mount is a distorted idea that we will not let happen,” Dichter said. “We will respect the sanctity of al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem, and will stand up for our rights on the Temple Mount.”
Non-Muslims are not allowed into al-Aksa’s prayer hall, while they are permitted on the Temple Mount. Al-Aksa is the lead-domed mosque on the southern side of the site, often confused with the golden Dome of the Rock, which is a shrine, not a mosque, and is located in the center of the Temple Mount.
Dichter was responding to comments made by Jordan’s Minister of Wakf and Islamic Affairs Wael Arabiyat, and carried by Jordan’s official Petra news agency on Monday, denouncing as “vicious” the previous day’s visit by a group of Jews on Tisha Be’av to the Temple Mount.
Tisha Be’av is the fast day that commemorates the destruction of both the First and Second Temples that were located on the site.
According to the Petra report, Arabiyat “expressed his ‘complete rejection’ of storming al-Aksa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif [Temple Mount] compound by more than 400 extremist settlers under ‘tight and unprecedented protection of Israeli police and special forces.’” Arabiyat also slammed the Israeli police for “breaking into al-Aksa mosque” and “ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlers” for “storming” the shrine.
“It is a blatant challenge to the feelings of Muslims and a clear violation of international law and norms,” he said, with Petra adding that the “settlers” were performing “Talmudic rituals” in the mosque.
On Sunday, according to the Israeli Police, seven Israelis – of some 400 who visited the site – were removed for not walking on the Temple Mount in the direction they were told. The police strictly forbid Jews from praying, bringing any religious artifacts, or making any motion that may be interpreted as praying on the site.
Arabiyat’s comment came the same day that Jordan’s newspaper published an interview with King Abdullah II in which he, too, chastised Israel for its policies on the Temple Mount.
In the 14th of 16 questions in the interview, Abdullah was asked the following: “Your Majesty, the Israeli violations against Jerusalem and its holy sites are ongoing.
Jordan, under your leadership, is carrying on with its efforts to defend the holy city. What measures can be taken to address these violations?” Abdullah replied, “We are dealing with repeated violations and transgressions by Israel and extremist groups and their blatant attempts to change the status quo in Jerusalem, including its landmarks, heritage and historical identity, as well as attempts to violate the rights of the Arab residents, make their lives difficult and force them to leave, in addition to tampering with Islamic and Christian holy sites.”
Abdullah said Jordan will persist in its “religious and historical” responsibilities toward protecting “al-Aksa Mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif, which faces repeated violations by extremist groups.
“Our responsibility toward Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem is a top priority for our foreign policy,” he said. “We utilize all our capabilities to protect al-Aksa Mosque which includes the entire indivisible al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.
We have successfully led efforts to adopt this definition at the UN and UNESCO. Moreover, we maintain all available political and legal options to stand against violations and protect holy sites.”
The UNESCO executive board adopted a resolution in April essentially expunging any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.
Dichter noted that there is an attempt under way to conflate the Aksa Mosque with the entire Temple Mount compound.
“Recently there has been a growing tendency calling for the ‘defense’ of al-Aksa,” he said. “This defense has grown a great deal, and from the mosque on the southern part of the Temple Mount they are now talking about the whole area of the Temple Mount. Israel will not let this happen.”
Neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Foreign Ministry were willing to respond to the comments coming out of Amman.