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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The former mufti of Jerusalem, Ikrema Sabri, has made the claim that there never was a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall was really part of a mosque.
"There was never a Jewish temple on Al-Aksa [the mosque compound] and there is no proof that there was ever a temple," he told The Jerusalem Post via a translator. "Because Allah is fair, he would not agree to make Al-Aksa if there were a temple there for others beforehand."
Sabri rejected Judaism's claim to the Western Wall as part of the outer wall of the Second Temple.
"The wall is not part of the Jewish temple. It is just the western wall of the mosque," he said. "There is not a single stone with any relation at all to the history of the Hebrews."
Asked if Jews would ever be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount under Muslim control, he replied: "It is not the Temple Mount, you must say Al-Aksa. And no Jews have the right to pray at the mosque. It was always only a mosque - all 144 dunams, the entire area. No Jewish prayer. If the Jews want real peace, they must not do anything to try to pray on Al-Aksa. Everyone knows that."
"Zionism tries to trick the Jews claiming that this was part of a Jewish temple, but they dug there and they found nothing," Sabri added.
Archeologists overseeing Islamic infrastructure work on the Mount announced this week that they had unveiled a sealed archeological level dating back to the First Temple period.
The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century BCE, and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was built 70 years later, enlarged during the first century BCE by Herod, and destroyed by the Romans in the year 70.
The Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa Mosque were constructed on the Temple Mount site in the late seventh century.
The controversial issue of the holy sites is expected to come up during negotiations ahead of a US-sponsored summit on the Middle East in Annapolis later this year.
Palestinian leaders, most notably the late Yasser Arafat, have consistently denied Jewish claims to the Mount.
Sabri made the comments in an interview with the Post's Friday supplement, In Jerusalem, for a cover story on how religious leaders view the capital.