Israel looks to spark religious war over al-Aqsa, Jordan warns UNSC

Jordan is not a member of the UNSC but was allowed to speak during the day-long debate which was open to all UNSC member states.

 Muslims pray on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City January 6, 2023. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Muslims pray on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City January 6, 2023.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

Egypt on Thursday urged Israel to refrain from unilateral actions and to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, after a tense situation at the holy site erupted earlier this week with Jordan.

It made the request during a phone call between Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Israeli counterpart, Eli Cohen.

Shoukry said peace between Israel and the Palestinians “requires refraining from unilateral measures that would further complicate the situation, as well as the necessity of preserving the legal and historical status quo in Jerusalem, since this has a direct impact on easing tensions,” according to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

Egyptian Ambassador to the UN Osama Mahmoud Abdelkhalek also raised the matter on Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York.

“Israel is continuing to arouse the anger of thousands of Muslims due to their attacks on the al-Haram, al-Sharif area.. which is an area of prayer for Muslim people."

Mahmoud Daifallah Hmoud

Jordanian Ambassador to the UN Mahmoud Daifallah Hmoud issued an even sharper message, warning that Israel wanted to spark a religious war over the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as al-Haram, al-Sharif.

Tourist visit at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, on January 3, 2023.  (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)Tourist visit at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, on January 3, 2023. (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

“Israel is continuing to arouse the anger of thousands of Muslims due to their attacks on al-Haram al-Sharif... which is an area of prayer for Muslim people,” he said. “That then leads to religious conflict, which will have serious repercussions as a whole.”

Egypt and Jordan are not members of the UNSC but were allowed to speak during the daylong debate, which was open to all UNSC member states.

Hmoud referenced an incident that took place on Tuesday in which an Israeli police officer asked Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali to wait prior to entering al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount so that he could speak with his superior officer about the visit. Majali left rather than wait, but he returned later to pray at the mosque.

Jordan summons Israel

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry summoned Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Eitan Surkis to condemn the police actions and underscore its belief that the site should be under the sole administration of the Islamic Wakf, which is affiliated with the Jordanian Religious Affairs Ministry. It has persistently refused to accept that Israel has security over the area, which is the holiest religious site for Jews and the third holiest for Muslims.

Jordan, which controlled the site from 1948-1967, retains a special custodial relationship with it. A status quo agreement allows for visitors of all faiths to access the area, but it limits prayer there to Muslim worshipers.

In his remarks at the Security Council, Hmoud accused Israel of preventing Majali and all Muslims in general from entering the compound.

He also referred to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the compound earlier this month as an “assault” on the area.

Israel continues to expel Palestinian inhabitants from their homes, including in Jerusalem, which is an attempt to change the identity of the city and is a “war crime,” he added.

Hmoud called on the UNSC to act, adding that Jordan “will spare no effort to defend Jerusalem and the holy sites and to defend our central cause, the Palestinian cause.”

“We will continue to work to preserve the Arab identity, the Muslims’ identity and the Christian identity of the holy sites in the occupied Jerusalem area and protect the legal and historic rights [there], and that will be the priority of his majesty, the King,” Hmoud said.

Palestinian Authority Permanent Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour urged the UNSC to upgrade the Palestinians’ status at the UN from a nonmember state to that of a member state.

He condemned the sanctions Israel leveled against the PA for successfully swaying the UN General Assembly to seek an advisory opinion against it from the International Court of Justice on the illegality of Israel’s “occupation.”

Ben-Gvir banning the Palestinian flag

Mansour also took issue with the decisions and actions of the new Israeli government, including Ben-Gvir’s decision to ban Palestinian flags in public spaces.

“This government is saying openly what it intends to do and is acting upon it,” he said. “Its program is to advance settlements and annexation, systemic discrimination and oppression. It does not recognize our rights anywhere and proclaims a right for its settlers everywhere.”

“Israel has often denied not only our rights but our very existence as a nation,” Mansour said. “Israel’s ban on the Palestinian flag in the public space is the latest manifestation of this denial.

“The Palestinian flag flies here in front of the United Nations. It is raised by millions of people in every corner of the globe. And it will continue to fly in the sky of Palestine, no matter what laws and rules Israel enacts.

“Israel still believes there is a path to peace by crushing the Palestinians. If there was one to be found, it would have found it by now. Peace will not come from the negation of our existence. It will come from the recognition of our plight and our rights,” Mansour said.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan accused the PA of successfully enlisting the global body to help it in its pursuit of destroying the Jewish state, in part through its initiation of resolutions against it.

“In a year that a war rages in Europe, Iran is executing protesters and is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power, North Korea test-launched a record number of missiles, and rogue regimes and terror groups continue to wreak havoc, [the UNGA] saw fit to adopt 15 condemnatory resolutions singling out Israel,” he said.

“Do you know how many condemnatory resolutions were adopted against the rest of the world? Thirteen,” he asked, answering his own question, adding that “more resolutions targeted Israel, than the entire rest of the world combined.”

“Destroying the Jewish state has always been the Palestinians’ only goal, and they aim to do so by any and every means,” he added.

The ICJ referral is another step to help the PA achieve that goal, Erdan said, adding that it was written in such a way so that Israel’s guilt was already decided, and the only thing left to determine was its punishment.

With the adoption of the ICJ resolution, the “Palestinians stabbed a knife in the heart of any chances for dialogue or reconciliation,” he said. “They proved that they are not interested in dialogue.”

Erdan defended the measures taken, including the renewal of the policy by which Israel withholds from the tax fees it collected on behalf of the PA, a sum equal to that which the PA spends on monthly grants to terrorists and their families.

When the resolution was voted on, he said, “I said that unilateral steps would be met by unilateral steps and that Israel must defend itself against those threats.”

The PA continues “to call for the murder of Israelis, they continue to glorify terrorists, and they continue to pay funds to killers,” Erdan said. “And then, after all the hatred and bloodshed, they show up here at the Security Council and put on a show playing the victim.”