A Border Police officer overlooks Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
With tens of thousands of Jews expected to flock to the Western Wall for Passover, which begins April 22, Israel reassured Jordan and the Palestinian Authority in recent days that it is committed to upholding the status quo on the Temple Mount.
Israeli spokespeople are also relaying a similar message in the Arab media and on Arabic social media sites, and it has also been made clear that – with the exception of government ministers and both Jewish and Arab Mks – there are currently no limitations on access to the Temple Mount.
The messages come amid concern in Jerusalem that, as has happened frequently in the past, Jewish visits to the site on the Jewish festivals will trigger Palestinian violence. Palestinian leaders in recent days have stepped up warnings against “provocations” by Jews visiting the Temple Mount.
According to government officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting of security officials last week to discuss the issue.
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu charged that the head of the extremist northern branch of Islamic Movement, Raed Salah, was once against trying to “heat up the Temple Mount” before a Jewish holiday. The government has accused Saleh of being instrumental in fomenting the violence that began last October by circulating the false rumor that Israel was endangering the Aksa Mosque.
The International Crisis Group, a trans-national NGO, issued a report last week saying that the Temple Mount is “ironically, quieter than in years,” and that this is the product of “quiet understandings in 2014 and 2015” reached between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
According to the report, based on “informed observers,” when the two leaders met in Amman in 2014 after a spate of violence on the Temple Mount, Netanyahu promised to prevent all Knesset members and Israeli political figures from entering the area, refrain from age and gender restrictions on entry of Muslims and Palestinians to the site and constrain access for Jewish Temple Mount activists.
Abdullah, according to the report, pledged “to keep the young Palestinians who became the next day’s stone-throwers from surreptitiously entering the compound at night.”