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"The Arab, Muslim, Palestinian side has accepted" the idea of negotiating a two-state solution with Israel, but was awaiting an affirmative response from Israelis and world Jewry, Sheikh Abdullah Nemer Darweesh, the founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, told participants of the Global Forum for Combatting Anti-Semitism on Sunday evening.
"I am a soldier, and hopefully the lead soldier, in the war against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the region," he declared, adding that "you have nothing to fear from the one-and-a-half billion Muslims [who think as I do]."
As proof, Darweesh gave the example of the Saudi initiative at the 2002 Beirut Arab Summit, noting that it not only included a call for recognition of Israel, but "full normalization of relations, something that amazed me."
However, he said, the Muslim world "didn't hear a 'yes' from Israel, and not even a 'y.'"
Asked to relate to the recent angry opposition of many Muslim groups, including the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and leaders in the region, to the repair work along the ramp leading up to the Temple Mount, Darweesh said that consultations should be held among the "Jerusalem Five," the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Israel, before changes are made to the status quo.
"Believe me," he added, "nobody questions the Jewish right to Jewish holy places."
Asked by The Jerusalem Post regarding statements made by some Palestinian leaders questioning exactly that right - including former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's comment at the Camp David Summit in 2000 that the Jewish Temple never stood in Jerusalem - Darweesh replied that "the Arabs will say 'yes' when they hear your 'yes.'"
Pressed to respond to accusations by Islamic Movement leader Raed Salah's claims that the digging was causing "damage to the sanctity of the Aksa Mosque," he said he would not come out against Raed Salah. "You have no sovereignty there. It belongs to the Wakf," he told the Post. Not even in the Temple Mount plaza? "Not even there," he said flatly.
"It's true he doesn't recognize Jewish sovereignty in the Old City of Jerusalem," MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad), who invited Darweesh to speak to the Forum, commented to the Post. "That's precisely the disagreement between us, and it's legitimate."