Jordan, PA launch initiative to prevent status quo change on Temple Mount

The two sides agreed to step up their efforts in the international arena, including Arab and Islamic countries, to warn of the “dangers” of any attempt to alter the status quo at the holy site.

 Palestinians celebrate on the first day of Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 9, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Palestinians celebrate on the first day of Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 9, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have begun taking measures to stave off any attempt by the incoming right-wing government in Israel to change the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound (Temple Mount).

The two parties earlier this week launched an initiative to encourage a large number of Muslims to converge on the site every day to attend sessions for reciting the Koran. 

The initiative aims to send a message to the Israeli government that Jordan and the Palestinians are determined to thwart any attempt to divide the holy site in time and space between Muslims and Jews.

The initiative, in addition, aims to reaffirm Jordan’s role as custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

Following the rise of the far-Right parties in the last election, Jordanian and Palestinian officials expressed concern that a new coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would seek to divide the compound in time and space between Muslim and Jewish worshippers.

  Palestinians pray on Laylat al-Qadr during the holy month of Ramadan, at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City April 27, 2022 (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS) Palestinians pray on Laylat al-Qadr during the holy month of Ramadan, at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City April 27, 2022 (credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

Developing tensions throughout the years

Jordan and the PA have in recent years condemned Israel for allowing Jews to tour the Temple Mount, describing the visits as a “storming” and “violent incursion” into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Jordanian and Palestinian officials held a series of meetings over the past few weeks to coordinate their moves in the aftermath of the results of the elections in Israel.

The two sides agreed to step up their efforts in the international arena, including Arab and Islamic countries, to warn of the “dangers” of any attempt to alter the status quo at the holy site.

In the context of these efforts, Jordan’s King Abdullah inaugurated the new initiative to encourage Muslims to participate in sessions to recite the Koran at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The main goal is to increase the presence of Muslims at the compound as a way of expressing opposition to alleged Israeli schemes to “Judaize” Jerusalem and its holy sites.

The inauguration ceremony, held in the Al- Husseiniya Palace, was attended by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and senior Jordanian and Palestinian officials

“The event saw the screening of a video on the waqf, which is part of Jordan’s efforts, under the leadership of His Majesty, to support the steadfastness of Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem, in line with the Hashemite Custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in the city,” according to a statement published in the Jordanian media.

The statement quoted Azzam Khatib, Director-General of the Jordanian-controlled Waqf Department in east Jerusalem which administers the Islamic holy sites, as saying that the new initiative was “one of many projects to safeguard the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and its Islamic identity, as well as support the resilience of Muslims.”

Abdel Azeem Salhab, Chairman of the Waqf Department, said the Koran-reciting initiative “comes at a time when Al-Aqsa Mosque witnesses repeated violations by Israeli forces.” Salhab called on Arab leaders to support the Jordanian monarch’s efforts to “protect” the mosque.  

Sources in Ramallah and Amman said the initiative aims to send a message to a new Netanyahu-led coalition that Jordan won’t allow the Israelis to undermine or end the Hashemite custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. 

The PA leadership has repeatedly voiced full support for preserving Jordan’s special role and status in Jerusalem and the Islamic and Christian holy sites.

The initiative, the sources added, “affirms the historical and religious responsibility of King Abdullah in caring for and protecting the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, establishing the Arab identity of Jerusalem and its people, and strengthening their steadfastness on their land.”

 ISRAELI FLAGS flap in the wind on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount. (credit: OLIVER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) ISRAELI FLAGS flap in the wind on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount. (credit: OLIVER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Mohammed al-Khalaileh, Jordan’s Minister for Waqf, Islamic Affairs and Holy Places explained that the King launched the initiative as part of his “support for the steadfastness of the brothers in Palestine in general and Jerusalem in particular.”

He said the initiative “consolidates and strengthens the status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque in the hearts of Muslims from different parts of the earth and would create an environment for learning the Koran.”

Abbas, who later met with King Abdullah in Amman, thanked him for the initiative, “which aims to strengthen the presence of Muslims in Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The two discussed ways to enhance coordination and joint cooperation during the coming period, especially in light of the formation of a new right-wing Israeli government.