Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat visiting the Temple Mount, October 28, 2014. .
(photo credit: MAYOR'S OFFICE)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s visit to the Temple Mount on Tuesday morning sparked outrage by the Jordanian Wakf Muslim religious trust, although police said rioting slightly decreased in the capital’s flashpoint Arab neighborhoods.
Following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency directive to add 1,000 extra Border Police officers to quell ongoing rioting, violence was limited to, and contained in, the Arab community of Silwan where a number of masked youths threw rocks at police, an official said.
“There were a few pinpointed incidents in Silwan that police were able to disperse quickly,” said Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld Tuesday evening. “While the situation is still tense, fewer incidents of rioting were reported today.”
Rosenfeld said there were no arrests or injuries during Tuesday’s disturbances.
After Barkat’s visit to the disputed holy site with police officials, al-Aksa Foundation and head of the Wakf, Azzam al-Khatib, accused the mayor of “storming” the mosque and of political grandstanding.
In a statement, the foundation – which serves as a branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement religious advocacy group – said the mayor’s visit was not properly coordinated and alleged it was orchestrated as a publicity stunt.
“[Barkat’s visit] does not give any legitimacy to considering al-Aksa part of the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Municipality, and does not erase the eternal Islamic character of the mosque,” the statement read.
Khatib told AFP that the mayor’s visit was “merely for publicity, and its political nature is characteristic of him.”
However, the mayor’s spokeswoman, Brachie Sprung, issued a statement later in the day saying that Barkat’s visit was peaceful, and it was little more than an effort to understand the facts on the ground at the site, which has long been a hotbed of violence for Muslim extremists.
“As part of Mayor Barkat’s ongoing cooperation with the Jerusalem Police, this morning he visited the Temple Mount together with the chief of police responsible for the area to assess the current situation and gain a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges at the site,” said Sprung.
The visit was particularly fraught following Monday’s visit to the holy site by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who declared that east Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Palestinian state.
“Jerusalem is a redline, and so is the Aksa Mosque,” Hamdallah told reporters.
“We will go to all international institutions and Islamic and Arab countries to request that they stand against Israeli violations in Jerusalem.”
During the visit, which was coordinated with Israeli authorities, Hamdallah was accompanied by PA General Intelligence Service head Majed Faraj and Preventive Security Service commander Ziad Hab al-Reeh.
Hamdallah went on to accuse Israel of working toward “Judaizing” Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque.
“We came here to say that Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state and an important part of the national program,” he said. “Occupation is illegal and illegitimate. All Israeli measures and the settlements are illegal.”
In response to Hamdallah’s accusations, Israeli government officials have repeatedly made clear to relevant governments – especially to the Jordanians – that there is no plan to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.