Border Police officers patrol Temple Mount.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Only Muslims can worship on the Temple Mount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Saturday night as he continued to dismiss charges that Israel had violated the status quo on the site where the Al-Aksa Mosque compound is located.
“Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said.
“Those who visit or worship on the Temple Mount must be allowed to do so in peace, free from violence, from threats, from intimidation and from provocations. We will continue to ensure access to the Temple Mount for peaceful worshipers and visitors, while maintaining public order and security,” Netanyahu said.
"Recognizing the importance of the Temple Mount to peoples of all three monotheistic faiths – Jews, Muslims and Christians: Israel re-affirms its commitment to upholding unchanged the status quo of the Temple Mount, in word and in practice,” Netanyahu said.
“Israel has no intention to divide the Temple Mount, and we completely reject any attempt to suggest otherwise,” Netanyahu said.
It is the latest in a series of statements Netanyahu has made in past weeks in an attempt to halt attacks by Palestinians against Israelis. He has charged that the attacks are fueled by Palestinian warnings, including from its leadership, that the Al-Aksa mosque is in danger.
He issued the statement after an intense flurry of diplomatic activity to restore calm. US Secretary of State John Kerry held separate meetings in Amman with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah on Saturday. Those meetings followed a face-to-face conversation he had with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Germany on Thursday and a gathering of the Middle East Quartet there on Friday.
Kerry told reporters in Amman that 24 hour video cameras would be placed at the Temple Mount, known in Arabic as Haram al-Sharif, in an attempt to quell the violence making making all actions there transparent.
An Israeli official said that it was in the country’s best interest to have the security cameras “to refute claims that Israel is changing the status quo. We want to show that Israel is not acting provocatively.”
Kerry also dismissed charges against Israeli actions on the Temple Mount and affirmed Jordan’s special status to the site, which is under the custodianship of the Islamic Wakf and King Abdullah.
Hours later Netanyahu echoed Kerry, when he said, “We respect the importance of the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as reflected in the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, and the historical role of King Abdullah II.”
The prime minister said that coordination between Israeli authorities and the Jordanian Wakf would be increased to ensure security at the site
“We support the call for the immediate restoration of calm, and for all the appropriate steps to be taken to ensure that violence ceases, that provocative actions are avoided, and that the situation returns to normalcy in a way that promotes the prospects for peace,” Netanyahu said.
“We look forward to working cooperatively to lower tensions, stop incitement and discourage violence," he said.
The Palestinians, however, have not been swayed by Netanyahu’s continued statements on the Temple Mount.
Abbas told Kerry on Saturday that Netanyahu was violating the status quo on the Temple Mount and that he was lying when he stated otherwise, according to PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.
“Before the year 2000, tourists used to enter the Haram al-Sharif [Temple Mount] under the guard of the employees of the Wakf department and non-Muslims were not allowed to pray there,” Erekat said.
“But now the Israelis have changed the regulations and tourists visit the site after receiving permits from Israeli authorities and under protection of the Israel Police.”
He said the Palestinians are now waiting to see whether the Israeli government would take serious measures to calm the situation.
Abbas holds the Israeli government fully responsible for the current wave of violence because of its policy of expanding settlements,”Judaizing’ Jerusalem,” as well as land confiscation and “ethnic cleansing,” Erekat said.