Israel will not make decisions about the Temple Mount due to foreign or political pressure, the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday.
The PMO was responding to a report that Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev had given in to Jordanian demands to add 50 more security guards from the Wakf Islamic religious trust to the site. The Wakf was instituted by Jordan after the War of Independence.
“There is no change or new development in the situation on the Temple Mount,” the PMO said. “Israeli sovereignty has been maintained.”
“All decisions about the Temple Mount will be made taking into consideration sovereignty, freedom of religion and security and not through pressure from foreign or political factors,” it added.Jordan had demanded to increase the number of guards a month and a half ago, but Israel refused, the PMO said.
The demand was also included in a diplomatic missive from Amman to Washington last month.
Israel removed six Wakf security guards who were Hamas sympathizers and replaced them with 12 new guards, which was within the number previously agreed upon and not an increase in what the government would authorize, the PMO said.
Jordan said it did not accept “participation or dictation from any party,” including the Israeli government, regarding the appointment of security guards at the Aqsa Mosque compound.
The appointment of guards and employees at the Aqsa Mosque and Al-Haram Al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) is within the mandate of Jordan and its Wakf Department in Jerusalem, the Jordanian Ministry of Wakf Islamic Affairs said Monday in a statement.
The ministry is “the only body charged with implementing the Hashemite custodianship over Islamic and Christian holy sites and endowments and consolidating the historical and legal status quo,” it said.
The 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan stipulates that Israel “respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem.”
The Wakf Islamic religious trust is responsible for the day-to-day administration of al-Aqsa Mosque.
Jordan’s announcement came in response to a report that Bar Lev and the Israel Police had agreed to increase the authority of the Wakf Department by adding another 50 security guards.
According to the report, Bar Lev had agreed to the increase in the number of the guards on the condition that other Wakf employees who support Hamas be removed from the Aqsa Mosque compound.
Despite the announcement by the Jordanian ministry, a Wakf official on Tuesday confirmed that Israel and Jordan were close to reaching a mutual understanding concerning security arrangements at the holy site.
Israel’s refusal to approve the appointment of new guards had undermined the Wakf’s efforts to maintain calm at the Aqsa Mosque compound, the official said.
The ministry has appointed more than 70 guards since 2016, a Jordanian official said, “but measures and restrictions placed by the Israeli police on the ground constitute an obstacle that prevents the guards and employees from doing their work.”
The Jordanian government, through the Wakf Department, is continuing its efforts and procedures “despite all obstacles,” the official said.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who is currently visiting the US, on Monday said the Hashemite custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem “is an honor and a responsibility that helps preserve the unity of all churches and, more importantly, among the Muslim and Christian communities.”
Maintaining stability in Jerusalem and the holy sites was vital to relaunching peace efforts, he told a group of Christian leaders, adding that the current situation, with the annual recurrence of tensions, is unsustainable.
During this past Ramadan, especially in the days it coincided with Passover, Palestinians repeatedly rioted and attacked police at the Aqsa Mosque compound, which was built on the holiest site in Judaism.